|Issue No 79||24 November 2000|
Cleaners Down Garbage Bags
By Andrew Casey
Domestic workers at Canberra's wealthiest school this week handed the school principal, as she arrived at work, green plastic garbage bags and other domestic implements.
The school's domestic staff are expected, as part of their duties, to serve, cater and clean at the up-market, and school-provided, Deakin home of Canberra Girls Grammar School principal, Alison Groom.
The workers - members of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union - are in dispute with the school over the non-payment of $4000 in over-time.
The school - one of the most privileged in Australia - charges student fees of between $5,000- $9000 a year.
" Our members have not been paid correct overtime since 1998.
" If a school gets top dollar funding from the Federal Government it should be accountable for the fact that it doesn't pay its workforce correctly," Lyndal Ryan, the LHMU assistant branch secretary said today.
One of the members of the school's Board is Peter Boxall, the Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration.
" This school - the wealthiest in Canberra - has behaved in a miserly way to its employees.
" I appeal to the school principal, Ms Alison Groom, to step in and fix up this on-going sore between the school and the domestic staff.
" Ms Groom knows many of these people.
" They have loyally served, cleaned and catered at her home, as well as at the school, for many, many years."
On Tuesday morning the school's domestic workers handed the school principal, staff and students as they arrived at the school gates, green plastic garbage bags and other domestic implements to highlight the on-going dispute.
" We wanted the staff and students to take the garbage bags and information leaflets home to their families where they could discuss the issue of paying people the wages they are owed - and see it as essentially a social justice question.
" We were told social justice had won out at midday on Tuesday - but our hopes were dashed by Tuesday afternoon."
" After the garbage protest the school quickly promised that all will be fixed up, and that cheques for nearly three years of overtime and backpay will finally start to flow," Lyndal Ryan said.
" But the School broke their word and talks collapsed by close of business on Tuesday as the school disputed how much backpay and overtime they owed to domestic staff," Lyndal said..
" In one instance they owe a cleaner $199 in backpay - but they disputed this figure and said they only owed $2.76. "
It took nearly three years of union campaigning for the school to tell the LHMU they would pay overtime to their domestic staff. That concession came after the union organised a protest which garnered a lot of attention under the glare of local TV cameras.
Once the talks broke down the domestic workers at the school imposed new bans including banning the cleaning of toilets.
You can read an earlier story about this dispute and the union protest outside the school by clicking here.
" Our members are very loyal to the school. They really did not want to humiliate and embarrass the school but after years and years of politely requesting their money they had had enough," Lyndal Ryan said.
" Finally they thought their protest had resulted in justice being done - only to have their hopes dashed."
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Economics: Rethinking Incomes Policy
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History: What Goes Around Comes Around
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Education: Peas in a Pod
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Satire: Hurley Rebukes Actors' Guild: I'm No Actor!
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Review: It's Only a Job
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005