On May 21 University of Newcastle cleaners staged a protest at the twin entrances to the campus. They demanded that big budget cuts be reversed and the prior cleaning regime and working hours be restored.
The university announced in March that it would be cutting its annual cleaning budget by $1 million a year — a cut of about 25%.
Thirty five cleaners from the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU) and about as many students met at the main entrance before marching to the vice-chancellor's office to present petitions and letters of support for the cleaners' campaign.
A March 18 post on the LHMU website by a cleaner said: "I have never known the buildings to be as busy as they are now. We are honestly run off our feet, from the moment we start, until knock off time."
Working students' rights convener Chris Townsend from the Newcastle University Students Association said reports had emerged of students who paid substantial rent to live in on-campus accommodation being rounded up to perform duties that until recently were conducted by cleaners.
LHMU NSW assistant secretary Mel Gatfield told Green Left Weekly the university was "taking a very bad position" and "hiding behind their contractor [Spotless] and saying they have no relationship with their cleaners".
"We're saying, don't hide behind your contractor, you are responsible for having a good standard of health and safety, and cleanliness," he said.
"The university community has really gotten behind its cleaners and we have already received hundreds of emails from students and staff in support."