Oz and US cleaners’ unions appeal to Frank Lowy to make his Westfield malls decent places to work.

Joint Union Statement On International Justice For Cleaners Day

By Andy Stern, International President of the 1.5 million member SEIU and Jeff Lawrence, National Secretary of the 130,000 member LHMU

Australia’s multinational shopping mall king – Frank Lowy – has been keen to be seen handing out largesse over the last twelve months, as he celebrates the immigrant success story that is his life fifty years after arriving in Sydney.

But the army of immigrant workers in the USA, Australia and Europe, who are the invisible battalions cleaning the ever expanding Westfield empire may wonder when some of this largesse will be shown to them.

These hard-working shopping mall cleaners, many of whom have left their homelands seeking a better life for themselves and their families, want the same opportunities to fulfil their dreams that Frank Lowy had when he started out in the 1950s.

Westfield is standing in the way of immigrant janitors achieving their dreams. It has adopted an aggressive strategy based on increasing profits by going for the cheapest tenderer, who, inevitably, make their own profits off the backs of low-waged immigrant labour.

This policy undermines the opportunities and prospects of thousands of people across the globe to take part in the better life that the Lowy family has won for themselves.

Westfield says that the problems of the janitors has nothing to do with the shopping mall, because it is the contractors who are the employers.

But it is Westfield who selects the contractor, and in these shopping malls the contractors acts in the name of Westfield.

On International Justice for Cleaners Day, unionised cleaners across the globe are demanding a Clearance Sale at Westfield Malls – saying Everything Unjust Must Go.

The original Justice for Janitors Day grew out of a June 15 1990 incident in LA where police beat immigrant janitors during a peaceful demonstration against a cleaning contractor.

The public outrage that was generated from this incident resulted in the cleaning contractor finally recognising the union.

Across the globe June 15 has been remembered with campaign and celebrations. Unions in the USA and Australia are closely co-operating this year in a campaign to urge the 120 world-wide Westfield malls to respect workers rights.

As multinationals, like Westfield, grow and expand union members have learned to think globally and find new strategies to win some justice for themselves.

Starting June 13, in twelve shopping malls in the U.S. where Westfield has handed out tenders to cleaning contractors who pay far below the rate offered to unionised cleaners, and provide them with few if any benefits, SEIU crews will be out there publicising this campaign in the parking lots and shopping mall entrances.

The key issue for SEIU members is the lack of affordable health care. Without health insurance, janitors who get sick often delay treatment Forty-one million Americans are uninsured, millions more are now worried about losing their employer-provided health coverage.

In Australia, on June 16, LHMU members will be outside major Westfield shopping centres pointing out that because of management’s contract tendering the cleaners in the food halls and around the retail outlets sometimes go weeks and weeks without being paid, or they are forced to work in unsafe conditions because their hours are cut, but the workload stays the same.

And they will be pointing out that if the Australian government slashes away at our universal health care system, Medicare, we soon could be in the same situation as the USA where poor and low-waged workers have little or no ability to pay for their health care.

Lowy has just announced that he is pumping $A 30 million of his own money into a think tank on international policy.

Maybe one of the projects the organisation can undertake is coming up with a global protocol on service sector tendering — one that takes into account the needs of workers and communities.

If Mr. Lowy really wants to memoralise the immigrant success story that is his life, he’ll make his malls decent places to work where immigrants can take steps to achieving their own dreams.

For interviews:

In Australia –

Jeff Lawrence, LHMU National Secretary, 02 8204 7204 or 042 524 2724;

Jo-anne Schofield, LHMU Assistant National Secretary, 8204 7231 or 0425 242 684;

In USA – The SEIU’s Cynthia Kain can arrange interviews SEIU Justice for Janitors leaders ring her mobile telephone on: 0011 1 202-368-3911;

Take Action On Justice For Janitors Day

As part of an effort to commemorate this important event, LabourStart has teamed up with trade unionists in Australia, the USA and elsewhere and launching an online campaign to demand that janitors employed by the Westfield shopping mall chain (which has with outlets in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada) be treated decently.

Please do your bit — visit the campaign page and send off your message to the company: