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Unions will move a resolution at ACT ALP Conference this weekend for all Labor MLAs to commit to boosting the pay of General Service Officers, the ACT Government employees who keep Canberra running through cleaning, trades, and facilities management.

The CFMEU and UWU will tell conference the low wages of GSOs – many of whom take home salaries of just $50,925 – have completely failed to keep pace with the rapidly rising cost of living in Canberra.

The unions will argue a restructure of classifications is needed, so the lowest-paid GSO workers will be paid at least $61,000.

GSOs and related BSOs and CSOs (who clean and maintain government schools) will rally outside the ALP Conference before it officially kicks off this weekend.

“If these workers stopped doing their jobs Canberra would be a catastrophic mess within weeks,” said Zach Smith, CFMEU ACT Branch Secretary.

“You cannot expect people to perform vital work and then ask them to support their families on $50K a year. The median house price in Canberra is approaching $1 million.

“We know of GSOs forced to sleep in their cars and that, frankly, should not be acceptable to any Labor Government. GSOs cleaning public toilets currently receive an ‘insanitary conditions allowance’ of just $2.71 a day. That’s just an insult.

“People who visit Canberra tend to always comment on clean and orderly our city is and that’s a credit to these guys, working hard in the background, every single day.”

Lyndal Ryan, United Workers Union Director of Property Services, said urgent action was needed.

“During the pandemic these workers went out into a very uncertain world while the rest of Canberra sheltered at home,” Ms Ryan said.

“What we’re saying to the ACT Government is that it is within your power to deliver a wage increase that at lease keeps pace with the cost of living and properly recognizes the value of this essential work. Failure to do so will see hard working people fall into poverty.”

“If we don’t see a very significant shift in tune from the ACT Government about recognising the contribution of these workers I think the situation is going to get very messy very quick.”

The unions are also demanding the government moves to stop permanent workers being replaced by contractors with little job security and poorer pay. The ACT Property Group, for example, not long ago had well over 100 trade staff but now boasts less than 30. Canberra Hospital has halved its maintenance staff over the past decade.