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In the Australian Capital Territory, hospital cleaners protested outside Calvary Bruce Hospital in response to contractor Compass Medirest’s insulting offer of a 5-cent wage increase and their attempts to block lawful industrial action.

Calvary Bruce Hospital cleaners have been trying to negotiate a wage increase for months and are on a base rate of $22.02 per hour. This is significantly lower than their counterparts at Canberra Hospital.

After months of negotiating, Compass Medirest threw a 5-cent wage increase offer on the table, forcing cleaners to seek a meeting with hospital management. Calvary refused, leaving cleaners with no other pathway but industrial action.

Hospital cleaners plan to walk off the job for 24 hours on Monday, insulted by a pay offer that leaves them well behind their counterparts at Canberra Hospital, despite performing the same role.

Yesterday, Compass Medirest made an application to the Fair Work Commission to prevent them from stopping work next Monday.

“These hospital cleaners are all migrant workers, many of them on work visas,” says Lyndal Ryan, United Workers Union Director for Property Services. “Their decision to take industrial action is a brave and considered step.

“Throughout the pandemic cleaners have been publicly lauded as heroes. Despite fears for their own safety and the well-being of their own families, these cleaners have turned up every day for work.

“This is how the Calvary Hospital’s specialist cleaners are being repaid for their services and dedication.  With management who won’t even meet with them and an employer who profits from their labour, but goes to extraordinary efforts to keep them poor,” she said.

Cebele Webbe, who has been a cleaner at the hospital for two years and nine months, said: “We cleaners are living out the crisis of the pandemic too. When they are talking about profits, we are talking about surviving, paying our fees, rent and putting food on our tables. We are not asking for favours. We are asking to be paid a fair amount for the amazing work we deliver.”