Malerato Harrison, a 39-year-old contract cleaner who worked for the major supermarket chain Woolworths, tragically died in a workplace accident in Newcastle, New South Wales (NSW) on November 25. The equipment was cleaned and the death was not considered suspicious.
Harrison, a migrant worker from South Africa, had been working for a third-party cleaning service contracted to Woolworths Jesmond for 10 months. She leaves behind a husband, two stepchildren, and a long line of loving family and friends.
“Her smile was contagious. She was the kind of person who would do anything for anybody,” colleague and friend Jessika Abra told 9 News.
The picture was published in newcastle herald Shows a commercial floor polisher being towed and escorted by police from a loading dock, the area where large trucks and semi-trailers deliver produce. According to the manufacturer, the polishers can weigh up to 275kg and police suspect the device may have malfunctioned and fell on her.
While the details of the incident remain unclear, the cardiac arrest following a crush injury is consistent with the medical condition of crush syndrome, a long-term tissue-damaged condition. When released from this state, there is a massive release of potassium and myoglobin in the body, which can trigger cardiac arrhythmias.
Woolworths staff told world socialism website Reporters They have not been given any information about the incident but have been warned to avoid discussing it with reporters.A worker familiar with the cleaning schedule said Harrison could have been trapped under the floor polisher as early as 5:30 a.m., before the early shift started at 6 a.m., given how it was being used and where it happened.
A fellow cleaner reacted to news on social media raising the inherent risks of cleaners working alone, a common practice for companies seeking to reduce labor costs to maximize profits.She said: “I lost a shopping center cleaner I worked with for over 10 years to a job accident which absolutely should not have happened. [have] happened. “
The worker continued: “In my friend’s case, as she was unlocking and opening the large security gate, it fell off the rails and crushed her to death in the mall. As a cleaner, there are some jobs you shouldn’t do yourself , our work involves a lot of risk.”
Cleaners are a highly exploited segment of the workforce with low wages and high levels of casual and labor employment arrangements. According to friends, Harrison was working two other jobs at the time, including a part-time beautician.
International students make up the majority of the cleaning workforce in metropolitan areas, according to the Cleaning Accountability Framework, the trade union – the peak body for the commercial cleaning industry. For downtown office buildings and retail malls in major cities, international students and other temporary immigrants make up as much as 85 percent of on-site cleaners.
A 2019 study by researchers from the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology Sydney found that 77 per cent of international students were paid less than the minimum casual hourly wage, with 26 per cent earning half the minimum wage or less (later One figure did not change compared to the same group) 2016 study).
Many migrant workers and international students endure the conditions in silence for fear of being fired or facing visa problems if they speak out. Harrison herself was finalizing her Australian citizenship, having passed the test days before her death.
Working conditions and wages for cleaners and the wider working class have been systematically eroded over time under the leadership of unions and the Labor Party.
Under future Labor leader Bill Shorten, the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) signed up in 2004 and 2006 to scrap overtime pay for weekends, public holidays and night shifts for around 4,000 casual cleaners. In 2010, the AWU settled a secret deal with cleaning contractor Cleanevent, which cut wages by about $6 million and collected $75,000 in “dues” from the company to the union.
Labor and unions have also led to a surge in subcontracting and labor hiring arrangements in the cleaning industry, which companies, including large supermarkets, have used to cut costs and outsource worker responsibilities to workers at wages and conditions far below what is required by law. at the lowest limit.
A 2018 report by the Fair Work Ombudsman found that the use of multi-stage subcontracting for cleaning services at Woolworths locations in Tasmania resulted in “cleaners being grossly underpaid”. In some cases, a chain of as many as four contractors stood between Woolworths and workers cleaning the store.
Malerato Harrison’s death highlights the silent epidemic of preventable workplace deaths across Australia. According to government agency SafeWork Australia, 140 Australian workers died on the job in the year to November 24.
Harrison’s death comes a day after a 57-year-old factory worker was killed in a forklift accident just 150 kilometers from Sydney. Emergency services were called to Tip Top Bakery in Chullora about 4am on November 24, but the worker was pronounced dead at the scene.
SafeWork NSW is investigating the Woolworths incident. Investigations by these government “security” agencies drag on for years, meaning public attention is diverted long before any findings are released. When rulings are finally handed down, they are often little more than “recommendations” and do nothing to hold those responsible for industrial deaths accountable or improve worker safety.
Workplace safety is never going to be addressed when it is in the hands of unions and these government safety agencies, which exist to mask the root cause of dangerous working conditions, which is that corporate profits take precedence over worker health and safety.
WSWS urges workers and others to provide more information about this incident or other workplace accidents and safety issues to contact us today.