Cleaning the corridors of power

Jaine Ikurere“I’m getting too old to work lots of hours a night, I’ve been working all my life with a low wage and I can’t afford anything.” Those were the worlds of Jaine Ikurere, 63 years old, she works two jobs to make ends meet, and one of those jobs is cleaning offices in parliament. She is paid just $14.60 an hour, and that’s as a supervisor, most of her colleagues are paid just $13.85, just 35 cents above the minimum wage.

One of the offices she cleans belongs to John Key, the wealthiest member of parliament with a net worth of over $50 million. The union that represents the cleaners, the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) is campaigning to have parliaments cleaners paid a minimum of $15 an hour. With a pay rise Jaine Ikurere would quit her second job and spend more time with her grandchildren.

Parliamentary Services sees cleaner’s wages as an issue between them and their employer- Spotless Services, who is contracted to clean parliament.


  1. Don Franks says:

    This I can relate to.
    A few months ago, also at the age of 63, I was cleaning a building, for similar money. Because I was lucky enough to secure enough steady music work I finally chucked the cleaning work in, after many years of it.
    Jaine Ikurere is not so fortunate.
    What can be done to redress the injustice she is suffering?
    One thing we should have learned over the last few years is that by themselves, general appeals for low paid cleaners to get justice don’t deliver significant improvements.
    The situation of the cleaners at parliament has been widely known for yearts, to no avail. Articles and TV clips about the plight of cleaners appear from time to time, people briefly look, say that’s a shame, shrug and then go back to what they were doing. Well intentioned as they have been, general appeals for pity to aid to these “vulnerable workers” have failed.
    The only possible way forward is organisation of cleaners themselves.
    I know from personal experience that road is very difficult, but it is the only one that does offer any real hope.

  2. Hello

    Here is another example of fighting for scraps, this is not really working and i wonder if people only see one way.

    Taking a different view I would suggest you look towards Milton Friedman that terrible right wing economist a person who would support your article on books and who was partly responsible for the removal of conscription in the US.

    During one interview he was asked about poverty and he replied poverty is about lack of money so just give the poor money. He was advocating a universal benefit which by co-incidence is what Gareth Morgan proposed. Poverty is more than lack of money though it is about choice not that crap of choosing to be poor but the pure lack of options due to poverty. A universal benefit would be one step to providing choices

    Education is another area where change from the right is feared but provides opportunity. Charter schools are beginning to be established to the anger of the unions. I do ask what is wrong with groups like Tuhoi starting their own schools based on their own beliefs? and if it is OK for them is it not OK for other races or cultures to establish their own schools to protect their languages and cultural beliefs. So who opposes these schools is it the teachers or the unions. Why not allow teachers to take advantage of these changes and even create their own schools based on a cooperative model.

    Roger Douglas once stated that if responsibility for education, welfare and health was taken from the government and given to the individual, politicians would not have anything to do. I think there are more people than just 120 politicians who fear this, we have armies of government workers who hate the thought of systems that give individuals the freedom and the means to be free.

    You see this is why nothing changes, this is why Jaine works hard at 63, to support a large number of people who can watch over and control her and her children and her grandchildren. You will fight to give her a $1.50 pay rise, I’m sorry but you have changed nothing. If you want to change you must change the system.

  3. Honestly the easiest way to raise their wages is to raise the minimum wage,

  4. Don Franks says:

    That would help, but, how to get it?
    Some of the loneliest hours of my life were expended trudging around capitalist party offices trying to get support for Unite union’s $15 an hour minimum.
    Labour didn’t give a shit, Greens paid soul destroying lip service.
    Next to no one outside of the low paid gives a shit about that stuff.
    The way capitalism has moulded and melded today’s human nature, the only way upward for the have nots is organised force.

  5. They should clean there own mess If they can’t afford to pay the worker. They shouldn’t clean it for them. Let them clean it for them-self. Those people are not there slave. They are just like my mother they should show some respect to the older man. How hard is that, this government are to greedy.

  6. or you could lower the cost of living.

    An average house costs 6 times the average wage not the historical 2 to 3 times this translates into a high mortgage or rental costs which suck money out of the economy especially the poor.

    Medical costs and dental costs, school fees and licencing for vehicles. local body regulation and little things like parking wardens ticketing for WoF or rego all these add up and the poor pay a greater share.

    Do you think $1.50 will solve the problem after tax is taken? You look for easy ways no way is easy and the best is often the hardest.

    Some one has to clean the building, it is a job, the job is not the issue it is the ability to live on the wages paid.

    We need to look at other ways you might get an increase but the reserve bank will just suck it up with it’s monetary policy or some green will print more and devalue it faster.

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