There is a group of workers in Aotearoa New Zealand whose jobs are potentially more important than director general of health Ashley Blomfield in terms of keeping us safe from Covid. They are the cleaners of the hotels where managed isolation occurs. Every day their job is to make sure that this evil pernicious virus does not escape.
They sacrifice a lot to do their job. They intentionally social distance themselves from others, keep away from their churches and social institutions, and stay distant from rest homes and their families.
When working if they are cleaning a room that has been occupied by someone with Covid they have to complete the job before leaving, no matter how long it takes.
If you want to hear the effects of the job and the dedication they bring to the job this interview between Rowan Quinn at RNZ and an unnamed cleaner is a must listen.
Unite Union has been running a campaign for all cleaners to be paid a living wage. From its website:
Unite Union, which represents hospitality workers including hotel workers in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, calls on the Government to pay all essential workers a living wage.
“The Government has recently introduced $1000 fines for border workers who refuse a Covid-19 test, but some of these workers are only employed on, or just above, the minimum wage at hotels under government contracts” says John Crocker, Industrial Officer at Unite.
“This “stick, rather than carrot” approach goes completely against the Government’s “be kind” ethos it has been advocating for months.”
“We have also seen the Prime Minister announce that the security services at MIQ facilities would be brought in-house under MBIE [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] and that these workers would be paid a living wage. This principle should be extended.” said Crocker
“During the level 4 lockdown we saw which workers were really essential to our society, and a lot of them are paid below the living wage. The Government has an opportunity to do the right thing here and pay the workers on the front line against Covid-19 the living wage that they deserve.”
Unite Union also calls for guaranteed paid sick leave for front line workers. “No one should have to choose between going hungry and jeopardising our national public health response” says Crocker.
A living wage is the absolute minimum we should be doing for these workers. And they should be thanked for their efforts which have seen no more than a handful of problems after over 100,000 returnees have gone through managed isolation.