Cleaners at Parliament are calling on Parliamentary Service to raise their wages to $15 an hour, saying it is up to the agency to make sure they are paid enough to live on.
Most of the 28 cleaners are paid $13.85 an hour, with the supervisors getting $14.60.
Parliamentary Service general manager Geoff Thorn has confirmed that the agency is in discussions with the cleaners' employer, Spotless, but says pay rates are a matter between an employer and employee - "in this instance, Spotless and the cleaners it employs".
However, the cleaners' contract - obtained by Fairfax Media - says workers' wages will increase when the "employee's customer agrees to, and sufficiently funds, an increase to the commercial contract for the express purpose of enabling an increase to that employee's hourly earnings".
The cleaners, backed by the Service and Food Workers Union, recently met representatives from Labour, the Greens and NZ First.
All three parties have committed to support their bid for a wage increase and other political parties are also being approached.
Union advocate Jill Ovens said the MPs had agreed to approach Parliamentary Service for the cleaners, agreeing that $13.85 was not enough to live on.
Labour's industrial relations spokeswoman, Darien Fenton, said the Government funded Parliamentary Service and cost-cutting had left it with no money to pass on to the cleaners.
It would cost $50,000 a year to increase their pay, she said.
The cleaners worked only 30 hours a week at Parliament, forcing many to take second jobs.
"The cleaners want to have some respect and be treated fairly. Parliament is the house of the people, it is where we stand up for what is fair and decent for ordinary people.
"We have people here who earn a huge amount compared to ordinary people. Surely we can see there is some injustice.
"We need to lead the way and set an example."
VACUUM OF POWER
Jaine Ikurere has cleaned the prime minister's office for more than 19 years. As a supervisor for Spotless she earns $14.60 an hour.
To help make ends meet, the 63-year-old has a second job, working a total of 50 hours a week. "I'm getting too old to work lots of hours a night," she says.
A pay rise would help her buy better food, pay for visits to the doctor, heat her Titahi Bay home and allow her to buy birthday presents for her 13 grandchildren.
"I've been working all my life with a low wage and I can't afford anything."
Two of her five children still live with her. Her son Ananda, 23, now works with her at Parliament. If she had a pay rise, Mrs Ikurere says, she would drop her second job and spend more time with her grandchildren.
She cleans all the Beehive offices nightly. "It's hard work but at the end of the day we are satisfied because we do a good job."
- © Fairfax NZ News