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Thursday, 18 September 1980
Page: 1269

Senator GEORGES (Queensland) - by leave - I am sure all honourable senators appreciate that when a service is withdrawn we are made starkly aware of the value of that service. For that reason I wish to ask you, Mr President, what progress has been made to settle the dispute involving cleaners in Parliament House. The quality of the work which these people carry out is fairly obvious to us all now. It must also be very obvious to us that these patient people would not have taken action and withdrawn their labour unless they felt seriously aggrieved. The matter has dragged on for a couple of days. Surely, we in this place should understand what the problem is and give these people some consideration for the worth of their efforts. Perhaps some progress has been made. Perhaps, Mr President, you could advise us. Concern has been expressed by many honourable senators that the matter be resolved as quickly as possible.

The PRESIDENT - It is true, honourable senators, and in response to you, Senator Georges, that all cleaning services within Parliament House were withdrawn by cleaners employed by the Joint House Department who are members of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia, from midday last Tuesday until midnight tonight. That is the advice I have. This action has been taken by the union without consultation with either the Presiding Officers or parliamentary officials. It is understood that the strike is an extension of earlier black bans placed on selected areas of Parliament House in support of the union's claim that work value pay increases of $8 to $9.30 a week offered by the Public Service Board on 2 September 1980 were discriminatory and inadequate with increases in other sections of the Public Service and in private enterprise. The Public Service Arbitrator has been notified that an industrial situation exists.

SenatorGEORGES (Queensland)- by leave - Mr President, I wish to make a further comment. Surely the matter is in the hands of the Presiding Officers in spite of the existence of a union. Surely the Presiding Officers could have been able to judge the worth of the claim which, on the very brief information given to us, is an extremely valid one. It seems to me that this matter has been allowed to get to this stage quite unnecessarily. No matter what may happen outside the Parliament, surely the Presiding Officers can make a decision in favour of the people concerned.

The PRESIDENT - I have just received up to the moment advice in this matter from the Secretary of the Joint House Department, Mr Jorgensen. The 48-hour strike by Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia cleaners in Parliament House and other Commonwealth establishments in the Australian Capital Territory was the subject of a hearing today before Deputy Public Service Arbitrator Booth. The parties concerned included the Public Service Board and the Departments of Administrative Services and Health.

After hearing submissions from the parties the Arbitrator issued the strongest recommendation to the FMWU that at its mass meeting of members to be held on Friday, 19 September - that is tomorrow - it should recommend that all bans and strikes should cease so that discussions can commence with the Public Service Board regarding the wage increase offered by the Board on 2 September 1980. The Arbitrator directed that the Board and the union, as soon as bans cease, enter into discussions. If no agreement is reached discussions should continue with a view to expediting resolution of the problem before the Public Service Arbitrator. Cleaners have indicated that they will resume work at 6.30 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, 19 September but a stop work meeting is to be held at 10.30 a.m. to enable the union to give a report on the hearing before the Arbitrator.

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