NSW cleaners continue fight
Story and photo
by Paul Oboohov
SYDNEY — Cleaners employed by the NSW Government Cleaning Service are into their ninth week of a campaign to stop privatisation of state cleaning by the Liberal state government.
The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union (LHMU) organised a rally on September 7. Three thousand cleaners marched from Hyde Park to a rally in front of Parliament House. Many workers travelled from country towns to attend the rally. Other demonstrations had already taken place in country centres.
At the rally, Mary Buhagiar, of the cleaners' Rank & File group, said that it was now clear that conditions conceded by the union had led to the efficiencies which had made privatisation attractive for the government. She drew a rousing response with her declaration that "We will fight with every fibre in our bodies for our jobs ... and we will win! We won't be swept aside!"
Chris Raper, secretary of the LHMU, said that there had not been a dispute by cleaners for 25 years. He said some Liberals in marginal seats, such as Peter Blackmore from Maitland, and Joe Schipp from Wagga, wanted the issue raised in the party room. Raper said that he would be presenting a 60,000 signature petition calling on parliament to retain the Government Cleaning Service.
Since the rally the LHMU has temporarily suspended rolling stoppages while a bill to retain the service is debated. The bill was passed by the lower house on September 16.
The upper house will debate the bill in two weeks. A favourable outcome will depend on the Democrats and the arch-conservatives, Fred and Elaine Nile.