At the CAF FY22 Annual General Meeting we had the pleasure of hearing from Pratikshya about her story of being a cleaner and CAF Representative (Rep). Cleaning was Pratikshya’s first job when she moved from Nepal to Sydney in 2017. Being new to the industry and a migrant worker, Pratikshya was unfamiliar with her rights and wasn’t aware of how to escalate issues at work.
“As a dependent of international student and as a migrant worker, I did not know my rights or how to escalate an issue even when I knew I was facing one. My knowledge was only as much as my supervisor provided me.”
Since her building achieved CAF Building Certification in 2021, Pratikshya and her colleagues, most of whom are migrant workers, have developed a better understanding of their rights and now feel that they have the knowledge and tools to advocate for themselves at work.
“We experience a better working environment since our site became CAF-certified and unionized…When CAF came to our site, I did see positive changes. We got to learn more about our rights and our issues were being solved in a short period of time.”
Part of this change can be attributed to Pratikshya herself. Pratikshya was elected as a CAF Rep by her colleagues to be their voice. As Pratikshya works closely on the floor with her colleagues, she understands first-hand the issues that cleaners experience. To ensure her colleagues’ issues are resolved, and as part of the CAF Building Certification process, Pratikshya has monthly meetings with her Supervisor and quarterly meetings with the Building Manager to discuss cleaners’ grievances and work out practical solutions.
“CAF Rep is simply a cleaner who works on the floor with the team, who has the first-hand experience of what happens on the floor. CAF Rep is also someone who the cleaners trust because CAF Rep is appointed by cleaners’ nomination.”
While the process itself seems quite simple, winning over the trust of her colleagues and encouraging them to speak up about the issues that affect them can be a difficult task. As the cleaning industry is renowned for exploitative practices, cleaners are often afraid to voice their issues. In the past, they may have been threatened with unfair dismissal, or have been targeted at work, if they spoke up about their rights. While CAF-certified buildings have protections in place to ensure this doesn’t happen, it can be an adjustment for some cleaners, especially those who are migrant workers. CAF Reps like Pratikshya play an invaluable role in encouraging cleaners to speak up. Over time, cleaners become more comfortable about reporting issues and working toward improving their work site for all.
The Board, staff, and Members who attended the AGM are incredibly grateful to have had the chance to hear Pratikshya speak about her experiences as it really demonstrates the impact of the work that CAF Reps. CAF Chair, Tony Beck, commented on the day:
“Cleaners are the very essence of why we exist. It’s incredibly hard work and we’re proud of all that cleaners and CAF Reps do at our CAF certified sites. To be a CAF Rep is to demonstrate industry leadership, and we are grateful to have CAF Rep Pratikshya here today to share her experiences.”