Contract cleaners: We’ve had enough

2011-08-12 19:00

Johannesburg - Contract cleaners are being taken advantage of, and want better wages so they can lead better lives, they said at a gathering in Johannesburg on Friday.

Violet Ramoruma, who is on strike with thousands of her colleagues, supported three people on a monthly salary of R1 500. She had to rely on loans to make ends meet.

"My salary is not enough to pay rent, buy groceries, furniture, pay for taxi fare and to educate my children. Government does not care about us. I have been working for 15 years without benefits."

An employee at Prestige Cleaning Services insisted the company had enough money to raise salaries.

"The money is there. It's not like there isn't any money being made. I have seen their contracts. Some invoices come to about R250 000 each," he said.

Sells cigarettes and vetkoek on the side

He said they worked long hours with hazardous chemicals, but sometimes could not take a loaf of bread home.

"I'm tired of this. We will go home with better wages."

Simon Kaposa said his low salary meant he had to sell cigarettes and vetkoek on the side.

Hundreds of workers who gathered at Beyers Naude Square displayed their company uniforms on sticks.

SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) officials told them a meeting with employers would be held on Monday.

A planned march to Prestige Cleaning Services in Johannesburg was called off because the city's metro police did not grant a permit for it to take place.

The march would instead take place on August 18.

Women dominating strike

Workers wanted a basic salary of R4 200 a month, and a 10% increase for those earning above R4 200. In addition they wanted a yearly 13th cheque, an eight-hour working day, and for members in rural areas to be paid the same as their urban colleagues.

Satawu went on strike on Monday with colleagues from the National Security and Unqualified Workers' Union, the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers' Union, the National Union of Hotel Restaurant Catering, Commercial Health and Allied Workers, the SA Cleaners, Security and Allied Workers' Union, and the Democratic Union of Security Workers.

Satawu is leading negotiations on their behalf. The unions represent about 75 000 workers in the sector.
The strike is dominated by women.

The Hotel, Liquor, Catering Commercial and Allied Workers' Union of SA and the Professional Transport and Allied Workers' Union of SA went on strike last Monday.

Black Economic Empowerment Cleaning Association chairperson Trevor Ackerman said on Thursday unions would have to address their demands to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.

"We have offered 8%, plus a 13th cheque or bonus. The unions have to send a motivation to the minister, who ultimately has the final say," he said.

Satawu provincial secretary Chris Nkosi accused Oliphant of not respecting women.

"The women of this country will lead us. With the absence of women, man is nothing."

  • THE.SRG - 2011-08-12 19:29

    Go educate yourself for a better job then!

      tonykzn - 2011-08-12 20:02

      While I understand the workers' concerns, I have never agreed with collective strike action at any level of employment. Assuming each worker has individually asked his immediate superior for higher pay and been turned down, his/her answer is to seek a better job, but not to hand in his/her notice until the better job is secured. If he/she can't find a better job, there remain three options: either (a) look harder, or (b) accept one's limitations and aim lower, or (c) go self-employed. This philosophy applies equally to university graduates and those leaving school with no qualifications whatsoever.

      THE.SRG - 2011-08-12 20:08

      Ahg son of soil....what do you want,do you want to get payed 5 grand a month for sweeping up sh1t,pls...if you want more money work to better yourself to a position of doing something more than cleaning

      Jack Spam - 2011-08-12 20:10

      @sun of Soil - Did you mean "son of soil"? This is why you push the broom my china.

      tommy 2 - 2011-08-12 20:39

      @ srg & co, How are they going to educate themselves when in there current jobs they are being paid peanuts. Just remember when the very same worker has had enough and turns to crime be it fraud,theft,murder you and your friends will be the first to crit. What goes around comes around.

      THE.SRG - 2011-08-12 20:42

      Is that a threat tommy 2 ???

      tommy 2 - 2011-08-12 20:54

      @srg, Not a threat just stating the facts. Those that post idiotic comments will always view it as a threat,but deep down they know its the truth. Pay people peanuts,and crime will escalate.

      StBad - 2011-08-13 10:05

      An individual's personal circumstance is absolutely inconsequential and unrelated to how one should be remunerated for the quality and skill level of the work they provide... and it has f'kall to do with Apartheid either. If you can't afford a large family, don't have one!

      Macho Mike - 2011-08-13 10:16

      Seems like they have been taken to the cleaners...............

  • d54 - 2011-08-12 19:30

    A cleaner is unskilled labour. What skills has a cleaner got that warrents a higher salary? Whose fault is it that so many have to be supported on a cleaners salary? Certainly not the employer. Get skills to earn a higher salary.

  • d54 - 2011-08-12 19:34

    No one held a gun to your head to accept the contract.

  • StephanM - 2011-08-12 19:58

    "My salary is not enough to pay rent, buy groceries, furniture, pay for taxi fare and to educate my children. Government does not care about us. I have been working for 15 years without benefits." I'm willing to bet a year's salary that in spite of this she still voted for the ANC...

      Jack Spam - 2011-08-12 20:17

      If you are still at the same level after 15 years of doing the same job then you are seriously doing something wrong. It boggles the mind.

      StephanM - 2011-08-12 22:52

      @tommy You completely miss the point! For the record, I think the majority of Saartjies out there are already supporting the ANC.

      tommy 2 - 2011-08-13 09:54

      @ stephanm, Would you expect her to vote for THE D.A. It will be like marietjie voting for the A.N.C.

  • tootingdel - 2011-08-12 20:19

    If the workers feel they are worth more how about them all getting together, organising their own companies, paying themselves more and seeing if they can keep in business. They may be able to do that. Rather than sit back and be a victim, be more positive and seek to change one's situation rather than expect someone else to do that for you.

      BTRX - 2011-08-12 20:22

      this is a very good point!!!

      ProudofPink - 2011-08-12 20:34

      But then they have to do something for themselves and going the handout route is far easier. Doing this, you also get to blame the whites don't forget.

  • Steve Wonderboy - 2011-08-12 20:19

    This is where legislation should come in handy. You may call it unskilled labor, but work is work. If I arrange a contract for you to earn R1000.00, while I take home R7000.00 off your sweat, that is not business but exploitation. Too many labor brokers in South Africa who call themselves companies. If you hire out staff to work for other companies then you are an employment agency, not a company, and there is laws in place that govern your industry. As for tonykzn, if these people were dealt with fairly, they would easily be able to afford better education or setting aside enough capital to work for themselves eventually. You cannot hire out someone and take 80% of that person's hard earned money.

      Steve Wonderboy - 2011-08-12 20:23

      BTW anyone who says the contract values have nothing to do with the cleaners have got to get their heads sorted out. If you work for money then it is your business how much you are worth.

      tootingdel - 2011-08-12 21:23

      The labour broker system maybe unfair. if so why don't some of the workers themselves get together set up their own brokerage system and pay their fellow workers better money? Surely there must be a few among them who could do this and run the system more fairly for them all.

      StephanM - 2011-08-12 22:57

      @tootingdel a number of these companies are probably BEE setups screwing over their own people.

  • spd123 - 2011-08-12 20:28

    If they are unhappy with their remuneration why did they take the job in the first place????

  • Nostrilite - 2011-08-12 20:51

    How are we going to compete internationally when we have morons like this in our labour force? Educated chinese people work hard for next to nothing for the greater good of the nation. BEE is already a layer of unnecessary FAT we have to deal this!?!? Gautrain bus drivers striking....didn't they just get their jobs the other day? ungrateful sods. Fire the lot, get new ones. In the states in the 80s the air traffic controllers went on a strike and held the country hostage. Reagan fired 11000 controllers and banned them from federal service for life! We need to wake up and get educated fast.

  • em_oh! - 2011-08-12 20:53

    It's the same old story....why can they not accept the fact they even HAVE a job? If not happey with being a cleaner get off butt and learn something to better yourselves.....but no....easier to hold out the begging bowl. If my "cleaner" is not happy then she more than welcome to look for another job.

  • Nipcat - 2011-08-12 21:36

    All they are achieving by demanding such a big increase is that their employers are going to make them work harder and employ fewer people and up go the unemployment stats. By the way, son of soil, your vocabulary is phenomenol!

  • maseratifitt - 2011-08-12 21:40

    Reading through the comments, my belief that we have a serious problem is reaffirmed. Comments in the vein of "get yourself an education to get a better job" is typical of the arrogance displayed by the ignorant. In the "science" of job evaluation we are quick to weigh factors like education, skills, budgets, etc. and offer huge salaries to attract the "right" people to do the job. Very little,if any, weight is attached to working conditions, and the effect if a so-called menial job is neglected. The unskilled garbage collector, for instance, is of the same importance of the educated office clerk, or even the Municipal Manager,in the Municipal office. Also, the cleaner in a hospital is just as important as the doctors. No part of an engine is really more important than the other.Each one has its own important part to play in the whole. I am not saying that everyone should be paid the same, but the following should be borne in mind: - We are all South Africans. The children of the cleaner are not less important than our own. How can these children grow to become productive citizens if their parents cannot even feed them properly, never mind give them a proper education? - A day is 24 hours long. Quite often the working day of the labourer is longer than that of the executive.Is the executive's life and family more important? - The lowest paid in an organisation should not get less than, say, 20% of the highest paid. Disregarding humanity increases voltage.

      Nom-de-guerre - 2011-08-12 21:58

      But, it's this entire culture of upwards wealth redistribution, economic growth as an almost moral ethic and generally winner-take-all capitalism that's to blame.

  • Nom-de-guerre - 2011-08-12 22:07

    People need to come to the realisation that it was not just white rule that oppressed and exploited people, but capitalism. It is naked capitalism that drove colonialism and spurred the birth of racist governments dominating Africa for a few centuries. Today, SA's GDP continues to rise as it has over the past 17 years. However, because of the existing winner take all capitalistic nature of the system, the vast majority of Blacks are actually poorer now than they were under apartheid! What kind of system is that! One where the rich tell you the system is working while the poor see the opposite! That is unsustainable.

      rumsour - 2011-08-12 23:06

      Perhaps you should find out more about the realities of communism before expounding the glories of a system which has proven to be unworkable. Try reading about the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and a few more which I cannot remember off hand and ask the people of the countries who actually lived under communist rule if they would willing return to communism rather than a group of pseudo-intellectuals who have nothing more than theories. ps. The collapse of communism began in Poland when the dock workers union demanded better wages ad more rights.

      Valkerie - 2011-08-13 09:58

      @ Nom-de-guerre: ...and you started off so well. You remarked on capitalism and how it's ruined this country. Any system can be twisted and warped to suit the money-grabbing elite anywhere. If this country already had a communist government, we'd have an Animal Farm on our hands. And the working force would eventually be sent to the knackers because they're passed their date of usefulness. And that's exactly what we're seeing already, not so? When we start examining the people involved, then do we start building a picture of greed and the hunger for personal power. There is no loyalty to anything bar their own instant gratification. Why are the majority poorer than what they were before? Because many in government are stealing from the citizens, defrauding them and doing so while singing freedom songs! Because for many, freedom came before education - with some still refusing to educate themselves past the struggle rhetoric they've been indoctrinated with! It's the dark side of human nature that needs to be addressed. If you want to make this country work, start seeing the facts without political rhetoric clouding your vision. Honesty and integrity are sorely lacking in most of our leaders today - that's the true problem! South Africa will fail if we don't address that first.

      Steve Wonderboy - 2011-08-13 12:51

      @rumsour, Nom-de-guerre is not advocating communism from his comment. What I read into what he said is that there has to be a better way. Is there no people of morality in power to put a check on rampant capitalism? Is there no one to say enough is enough and exploitation will not be tolerated? No one is asking for communism, it has been proven not to work, but there has to be a better way.

  • CeeCee - 2011-08-12 22:14

    The reality is that the monthly wages of a contract cleaner is by no means a living wage. Domestic workers earn more than these cleaners that work for cleaning companies. The main culprit is large companies. They outsorce the cleaning to cleaning companies and as part of the contract, worker salaries are negotiated. Indirectly, the likes of Medi-Clinic and Retail Companies that need their stores cleaned, are ensuring that many workers are paid less than a domestic worker per month. Its not their problem because its not their worker - their only concern is the bottom-line cost of their cleaning requirements, and because contract cleaning is so competative, many contract cleaning companies keep worker wages as low as possible to get the contract. Big business should for once man up and explain why they are prepared to indirectly send contract cleaners home with less than R2000 per month to live on, but not their own workers. Where is the morality in that.

      rumsour - 2011-08-12 23:20

      Oh the 'Evil' corporations how can they pay their employees so little. Oh the 'Greedy' corporations stealing the money from the poor, they must make their products cheaper. Oh the 'evil','greedy' corporation went out of business and now the people have no jobs and I cannot get that product anymore.

      Nadia - 2011-08-13 10:03

      The reason why companies outsource functions like cleaning etc is because of theft mainly. Many of these "hard workers" turn up at work, do the minimum, generally eat everything they come across, stay away from work without the courtesy of a telephone call or explantion when they return, so you see, it makes sense to hire a company to perform these functions and the headache becomes theirs. The boss/ owner usually earns the bigger salary because he/she takes the risk and has the headache of paying for everything!

      Steve Wonderboy - 2011-08-13 13:03

      @Nadia, that is a nice theory, however, did you do the sums? Takes the bigger risks? Let me give you a number. R6000.00. That is what I would estimate a corporation would pay a cleaning company per worker per month. Now said company pays cleaner R1500.00. Anything goes wrong insurance pays out. Legal fees already covered. Uniforms once off expense also covered already. This company is not just employing one person, but thousands of staff. Through wind and rain these people have to work. And what did the boss do for that money, get a contract for his worker. In other words, I got you a job, now you are eternally indebted to me? And those pro Big Company comments, this recession is going nowhere, and it's only going to get worse. What are you going to do if you get laid off and you need to get a job just to survive? Are you going to be happy with being exploited while some fat cat gets rich off your hard work? This is not just about cleaners but about exploitation in general.

  • Settler - 2011-08-12 22:55

    You cant have 1st world labour laws where unemployment is 7% for a 3rd world country where unemployment is 40% plus.

  • maseratifitt - 2011-08-12 23:05

    "With the absence of women, man is nothing" Absolutely. But sometimes the peace is overwhelming.

      TaniaSandraSteyn - 2011-08-13 02:20

      In Port Elizabeth, the average salary offered for secretarial or receptionist work which requires basic IT skills and at least some tertiary education is between R3000-R5000. Most of the people who apply for these positions have to pay rent or a bond. The quicker we get our rail network up and running throughout the country and subsidise the transport costs, the better SA wil BEE.

  • gavinb2 - 2011-08-13 07:10

    THATS Journalism - Fool! an invoice of R250000 DOES NOT equate to a company having LOTS of money. It might mean we had to take the job at that price just to pay your current wages!

  • Nicholas - 2011-08-13 10:07

    toilet cleaner want R4200? rubbush! R1800 per month is enough... Which qualifications they have? National Diploma in Sweeping? Batchelor of Moping?

      tommy 2 - 2011-08-13 10:20

      @ Nicholas, No Qualification,but they still clean better than you a qualified someone,hence you employ a cleaner. Most of your kids,cooking,households are run by cleaners. So come of your high horse.

  • Macho Mike - 2011-08-13 10:16

    Seems like they have been taken to the cleaners.............

      rhowen.heever - 2011-08-13 11:24

      How do you have children and get yourself into the situation where you need to support three on a R1500 wage. Surely you thought of that before having kids? The 1st child was most probably born before she matriculated and the other two in the next year. We all want families but maybe if we were not so over populated there would have been enough to go around

      tommy 2 - 2011-08-13 11:29

      @rhowen, The church told them not use protection.

      Proefleser - 2011-08-13 11:57

      rhowen.heever - why do you immediately assume the three are children?Maybe he/she is also supporting their aged parents.

      rhowen.heever - 2011-08-13 12:21

      Because generally that is the case and in most instances it would be at least four children to feed. Don’t get me wrong as I feel R1500 is a joke but you can’t help thinking that this poverty is also brought on by the fact that they have created a bigger problem for themselves I won’t buy something that I would not be able to afford. They will buy three

  • KarinWalker - 2011-08-13 11:06

    It amazes me how these people think that an employer must pay them more according to the number of children they have and the lifestyle that they would LIKE to have! Wake up and smell reality! A job pays a certain amount! take it or leave it! if it pays only R1500 per month, DONT HAVE CHILDREN! And it always amuses me how they sit in the same sh*tty job for 20 yrs without trying to improve their education or work hard to get a promotion and become a manager! They dont want the responsiblity of managing their own peers ( disciplining / firing etc) but they want a manager's salary! catch a wake up! There are 15 million people out their who can do your jobs! The law of supply and demand exists! What employer is going to pay R4200 a month when he can hire uneducated people to do the job for R1500! And collective strike action is not the way to go! it means that the lazy shiftless workers get increases along with the hard-working ones!! Each individual worker should be assessed on their merits and competence to qualify for raises!

      tommy 2 - 2011-08-13 11:26

      @ Karen, R1500. Wow you are slave driver.So is 4200 a managers salary. Pay peanuts and crime will escalate. Please remember when those uneducated people doing the job are gatvol and steal,rape, murder their employer please do not come on this site and vent your frustration. eg;"the crime is out of control" Amazing you think that r1500 is a livable wage. So please you and your kind please do not make the other 15million upset cause you might just end up being on a tombstone which will read, " here lies Karen the slave driver"

  • GrannyC - 2011-08-14 20:10

    If you don't like your job or what you are being paid then leave, go find yourself some other job but remember you signed the contract and I am sure no one held a gun to your head. There are alot of people out there who would be only too pleased just to have a job.

  • Megan - 2011-08-16 10:40

    Go join the ranks of the unemployed and see if you prefer that.

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