Across our industries E tū members have experienced a wide range of employer responses to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns. E tū’s firm position is that all members should be on 100% pay, even if they can’t work over the period. While some members are getting this, many are not, with some even being threatened with not being paid at all.
Commercial cleaners have been on a rollercoaster ride trying to make sure they get paid properly during lockdown. While many E tū members have continued to carry out essential work over the period, a lot of cleaners haven’t been given work, as many buildings are closed during Alert Level 3 and 4.
Many cleaning companies had a profitable year in 2020, with increased demand for cleaning services as well as the help of the wage subsidy. However, some hardworking cleaners, who are paid just over the minimum wage, were being told they’d go without pay, or with reduced pay, with very limited back-up options available from WINZ.
One of those cleaners was Mary Bredenkamp, who works at Massey University in Palmerston North. She says she “panicked” when she first received the letter telling her she wouldn’t be paid.
“It was devasting. I felt like they didn’t consider us worthy, so they don’t take our loyalty into consideration,” Mary says.
“Going without pay would have put me into rent arrears. It would have been a struggle to pay for food and other bills, and really would have put us on hardship street. It felt like a kick in the guts.”
As a result of the strong pushback by E tū members, most of the companies have started to do the right thing, including Mary’s employer.
“I felt elated when I heard that,” Mary says.
“I can breathe now – it’s like coming out of a bad nightmare. Light at the end of the tunnel – a beautiful feeling.”
E tū members will keep fighting to make sure our members are not out of pocket while COVID-19 restrictions affect our normal work. If you have been underpaid during the lockdown, please contact an E tū Support organiser by emailing 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466) or email [email protected].