NZ quarantine cleaners ‘underpaid and undervalued’

22nd of February 2021
NZ quarantine cleaners ‘underpaid and undervalued’

A cleaner working in a New Zealand quarantine facility has spoken out about the tough conditions she faces every day.

The unnamed cleaner describes herself and her colleagues as the "forgotten border workers - overlooked and underpaid for the work they are doing to keep the country safe from Covid-19".

She worries constantly about passing Covid-19 on to others; has two showers per day and washes her uniform every night to avoid having to leave it in the washing basket where it could become a cross-contamination risk. And if a guest tests positive at work, she is expected to thoroughly clean every surface of their room which often entails missing breaks.

"It has had an impact on my whole life, it's changed my routines and the way I go about things and how I interact with people," she said. "I want to start going to the gym but I'm afraid of bringing the virus into the community."

She says she keeps two weeks' worth of food in the house at all times in case she has to self-isolate. And while her job has changed massively since COVID-19, her pay has not changed at all.

National hotel organiser of the Unite union Shanna Reeder says some workers in managed isolation hotels have been paid more during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that they were in the minority.

"These people are on the front line," she said. "They're the ones who are protecting everyone in the country from catching COVID via their intense, stringent daily practices, and they're just treated like any old other worker. It's just not fair."


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