Cleaners the university’s ‘heartbeat’ and deserve a Living Wage

Posted By TEU on May 24, 2019 |


Living Wage at Vic – a coalition of student, staff, and communities members
– held its second Living Wage Day at Victoria University of Wellington on Wednesday, 22 May.

Students, staff, and community members gathered to highlight the fact that
cleaners, tutors, and research assistants are amongst those who are paid
below the Living Wage at Victoria University of Wellington and again demand
Professor Grant Guilford pay a Living Wage to all university employees.

Over 550 messages of support and thanks for cleaners at the university were
displayed around campus and will be presented to the university management
to show the strength of peoples’ support for the living wage. As one
student wrote:

“You are the heartbeat of this institution. Without you, it would
flatline”

Two cleaners at VUW, both earning the minimum wage, spoke of the
difficulties of working long hours in a demanding, low-paid job and the
pressures this puts on their families. One staff member, Rebecca Kuach, a
single mother of five gets up at 4:30am and is never home before 6pm:

“I always worry when my children arrive home from school and I’m not there.
I really worry about my kids, especially the young ones. I have to work
these long days because I also worry about bills – rent, power, children’s
school uniforms and shoes, school fees. I worry about the cost of transport
and making sure I have the $10 for parking each day. I love my job, but
it’s tough, and it’s dirty being a cleaner. We’re happy to do it, but we
need to be paid a Living Wage. Our work is important, and we do a great job
at it, but it’s tough living like this”.

Rebecca had shared her story at the first VUW Living Wage Day. While the
TEU has achieved the Living Wage for most directly employed staff, for some
working at Victoria University’s campuses the situation has not changed.

Living Wage organiser Lyndy McIntyre says “there are around 80 cleaners at
Victoria University. They work long hours in a dirty job and the university
would shut down quickly if they weren’t there. It’s time to value these
workers with the pay they need and deserve”.

Living Wage student activist Marlon Drake read a message from a tutor who
was fearful speaking up about his low pay would affect their employment
after being told not to discuss his employment agreement or wages with
colleagues.

“The inconsistency and the attempts to stop conversations about them
(wages) is ridiculous, alongside the lack of a Living Wage. Our wages also
weren’t adjusted by the same amount as the minimum wage increase. As a
student looking at marking assignments every day for the next few weeks,
each taking roughly an hour, I know that the work I do deserves to be
recognised by a wage that lets me focus on my studies, rather than making
rent”.

TEU Branch President Katy Miller says: “We want Victoria’s senior
leadership team to work with us and follow Wellington City Council’s
example. Let’s show that Wellington is a progressive city that values its
workforce and is committed to all students, workers and their families
being able to live decent lives”.

The TEU’s national industrial strategy includes a national claim for the
Living Wage in all TEU negotiations. We will continue to make this claim in
all our collective agreement this year.

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