The staff cleaning New Zealand's quarantine hotels fall into a contractual grey area that leaves many earning the minimum wage, despite the risk involved in the work.
Unite Union national secretary John Crocker says that these contracts currently do not specify what cleaning staff at hotels ought to be paid.
"The government has proudly announced it is paying all contracted cleaners, security and caterers the living wage, but at this stage this does not include hotel staff," Crocker told the Herald.
"The hotel workers, who do clean, have fallen through the cracks."
Crocker explains that the reason security guards at MIQ facilities are already on a living wage is because they fall into the government contractor category.
"The MIQ Hotel workers are not contracted cleaners, they are hotel workers and some are housekeepers," Crocker says.
This ultimately means that many of the cleaners currently doing the high-risk work of cleaning the hotels are currently being paid a minimum wage of $18.90 an hour.
This despite the fact that the Government outlined a goal to pay all Government contractors the living wage, which is currently set at $22.10.
The existing contracts between the Government and MIQ facilities provide a set payment meant to cover all costs involved, including cleaning expenses. These contracts did not outline specifications on pay requirements for cleaning staff.
Crocker said that the contracts are set to be renewed in April, which would give the Government an opportunity to add a condition that hotel workers are paid at least a living wage from then.
"If the Government came out and said that hotel workers will be paid a living wage from April then that would be fine, but that's not what we're hearing," says Crocker.
"They just keep saying that they are currently in negotiations."
Approached by the Herald for comment yesterday, a spokesperson from MIQ told the Herald the Government has regular discussions with employee and employer representative organisations about the living wage issue.
"At least two hotel providers have indicated to us that they either have or intend to pay their employees the living wage, as a result of these discussions with us," the spokesperson said.
Asked when all cleaners working at MIQ facilities can expect to be paid a living wage, the spokesperson declined to comment "as negotiations are ongoing".
Unite Union isn't the only employee organisation calling on the government to ensure cleaners taking on this work are paid a living wage.
E tū union organiser Mat Danaher told the Herald that his organisation views cleaning staff as health workers and the MIQ locations as health facilities and that they should be paid fairly for this dangerous work.
"We would like to see the living wage process sped up for MIQ workers," Danaher said.