Your browser is not Javascript enable or you have turn it off. We recommend you to activate for better security reason


"Invisible workers" of the night looking after each other

Written by: on


Ned K.

A couple of weeks ago, Mary (not her real name), an African Australian who recently became an Australian citizen, went to the large office building on a Friday evening to start her shift as a contract cleaner. She was happy in her job of 20 hours a week as the evening hours enabled her to balance her need to earn an income and look after her four children as a single mother. 

She had recently been transferred to this building after being subjected to allegations by the previous building's property manager of poor work performance. She stood up for her rights and disputed these allegations successfully with the assistance of other union members and their representative so no warnings were recorded against her name. However she wanted to get away from the property manager and was happy to be transferred.

What she didn't know though was that the property management people talk to each other and when she arrived at her new workplace she found that they had gossiped to other cleaners and security guards that she would not 'make the grade' in her new workplace.However both her co-cleaners and security guards who were also union members rallied behind her and found management gossip about her to be completely untrue. So much so that security guards in the building, who were employed by a different contractor than the cleaners, exchanged mobile phone numbers with her in case she needed their help or advice in finding her way round the new building and how the security systems worked for access and exiting different floors.

On that Friday a couple of weeks ago, the unity and support from other "invisible" workers in the building came in to play.

Unknown to cleaners, the tenant on one of the floors Mary cleaned had arranged with the building property management to lock down that floor for some maintenance work to be done on the Saturday. The computerised lock down system was controlled from an office in another building in another capital city! The building property manager and the tenant concerned in this floor programmed the lock down to commence at 7pm on the Friday evening when the cleaners were still working and Mary was cleaning the floor that was locked down!

When she went to exit the floor in the usual way she could not get out. She contacted the cleaning supervisor but he could not unlock the floor. Mary started to feel caged in and anxious. Then she remembered what the security guards had said about contacting them if in trouble regarding the building systems. They had gone home at 6pm, but Mary rang one of them, Jill (not her real name), who had just got home. Jill contacted the building property manager who when he heard what had happened admitted that he'd forgotten all about the cleaners still working and the lock down should have been activated after the cleaners knocked off work at 9.30pm. He had no way of opening the access door to the floor because it was controlled from another capital city! So he gave authority for the glass door to be broken so Mary could get off the floor, finish her work on other floors and go home.

This is just one small example of how workers in many occupations are often forgotten because they are not "core business" in the eyes of the bosses. It also a story though of how such workers on a day to day basis unite across occupations (cleaning and security in this case) and how they stick by each other and communicate between each other in ways that matter most in critical times 


Print Version - new window Email article


Go back