Westmead Hospital cleaners, HSU members to go on strike

Daily Telegraph Newslocal Parramatta, 29 June 2022

Industrial action continues to deepen, with scores of cleaners at a major NSW hospital poised to put down their mops and walk off the job.

Sick of the state government’s use of contracting cleaners at Westmead Hospital instead of employing permanent staff, at least 50 cleaners and Health Services’ Union members plan to go on strike on Wednesday.

The frustrated workers will walk off the job at 5pm after the HSU said they were “alarmed at the explosion in use of insecure contract workers”, who are employed by cleaning company Pioneer.

A HSU spokesman said since Covid began two years ago, the reliance on contracted cleaners increased from two to at least 60 “on any given day”.

“Cleanliness standards have declined with contractors receiving minimal training before commencing work,’’ a HSU spokesman said.

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association Westmead Hospital president Tim Blofield said nurses were often left to carry out cleaning duties, such as empty overflowing laundry skips, because contracted cleaners were not trained adequately.

“I think the worst part of these external contractors is they’re not fully supported and oriented to a hospital and this is negatively affecting the hospital,’’ he said.

The HSU spokesman said permanent staff have observed temporary staff’s “inferior understanding of the need to maintain a sterile hospital environment”.

“The onboarding process is more limited and less strenuous than that which permanent staff must go through,’’ he said.

Westmead Hospital’s permanent cleaners want better checks and training for their contracted counterparts.

HSU deputy district secretary for health services Ian Sherwood said workers demanded that the government carried out working-with-children checks and ensured contracted cleaners were vaccinated.

HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said it was also unclear what checks and certification contractors completed.

“The only reason to use contractors to clean a public hospital is cost cutting,’’ he said.

“And that’s a terrible way to run public health.

“This work is not temporary or seasonal. There is permanent, ongoing demand to clean a hospital and it should be done by permanent, ongoing staff.

“This miserable penny pinching has to stop. Employ enough people, pay them properly and let them do this important work.’’

Westmead Hospital has 130 full time cleaners and 60 contracted cleaners.

The strike is scheduled to run for eight hours but will be prolonged if staff do not receive a reasonable response from management.

Western Sydney Local Health District has been approached for comment.