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Long-serving cleaners 'betrayed' after Auckland school didn't renew contract

Four cleaners are pleading with the Auckland school they’ve worked at for the past six years to let them keep their jobs. 

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Four cleaners from Manurewa are facing redundancy after their employer’s contract wasn’t renewed. Source: Breakfast

Two weeks ago, the four contracted cleaners at a school in Manurewa found out their employer’s cleaning contract had not been renewed and had been given to a franchisor instead. But, rather than re-hire the existing cleaners, the franchisor has proposed to contract the work to a family-run franchisee.

Sia Alani, one of the cleaners, told Breakfast she didn’t know why the franchisor didn’t want to re-hire them. 

“We feel hurt and we feel betrayed because that’s our job,” Alani said. 

She wanted the school’s management to intervene and meet with them to hear their concerns. 

“I want them to hear our voice. We want to work there,” she said. 

Alani found out she was being made redundant on Friday, June 18. The cleaners’ redundancy consultation ended on Friday, June 25. 

Although the cleaners have been paid for this week, Alani has had no work since last Friday.

Fala Haulangi, a campaign organiser for union E tū, said the four cleaners were “serious about continuing to be employed”. 

“They actually cried when they told me their story,” she said. 

She rang the school’s principal and chairperson, who told her it had nothing to do with them. 

Haulangi said all she wanted was to meet with the principal and chairperson so they could tell the franchisor to consider hiring the cleaners. 

Under Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act 2000, special protection is given to specific workers like cleaners when an employer’s business is restructured and work is assigned to a new employer. 

Under Part 6A, employees have the right to transfer to the new employer on the same terms and conditions as their old employment. However, because the franchisor had fewer than 20 staff, they were exempt from Part 6A of the Act, Haulangi said. 

E tū's Fala Haulangi and cleaner Sia Alani. Source: 1 NEWS

Haulangi said she also wanted the school to directly employ the cleaners at the living wage – a cost the Ministry of Education agreed to cover for all directly employed E tū members working as school caretakers, cleaners, and canteen staff in 2019.

“The fair pay agreement will be able to provide things like job security. … So, the government needs to really step up and make sure that these workers … they are protected,” she said.