A clean start for 500 Victorians with new jobs

Five hundred people are being employed to improve hygiene and safety across the city as part of the $500 million Working for Victoria fund.

The Working for Victoria initiative is matching thousands of Victorians who have lost their jobs with employers that need staff. It also supports people to upskill and return to work.

Fletcher disinfecting the streetA $12.9 million grant has been awarded to the City of Melbourne to train and employ cleaners for at least three months across five local government areas – the cities of Melbourne, Yarra, Port Phillip, Stonnington and Maribyrnong.

Spotless and Citywide are recruiting the workers to meet cleaning requirements not covered by existing cleaning contracts.

The first 100 Victorians have been employed and trained and are focusing on sanitising public areas, removing litter, increasing street sweeping and improving the look and cleanliness of the city. They also deep clean public assets such as drinking fountains and disinfect surfaces such as handrails, street furniture, playgrounds, tram stops, traffic signal boxes and post boxes.

Until March, Fletcher Pearse worked as a ramp agent at Melbourne Airport, one of the crew who kept the busy airport ticking over behind the scenes, providing a range of services including aircraft loading and unloading, handling baggage and cleaning aircraft.

“We’re the guys in the high-vis loading the aircraft, driving the tugs, moving equipment and doing bag-room duty, all that sort of thing,” Fletcher said. “I’d only been there for about six months before all this coronavirus stuff went down.”

Airport traffic was dramatically reduced by the coronavirus pandemic in March.

With international travel cancelled and domestic flights dramatically scaled back, Fletcher and his colleagues were stood down without pay.

“We’re all currently stood down, but we’ve been pretty fortunate,” he said. “In the airline industry other carriers are struggling and letting people go. We have the potential to be rehired when things change, but it’s a very fluid situation.”

Fletcher recently returned to work after being hired by Citywide to clean streets and public areas around Prahran and the City of Stonnington.

“I first heard about Working for Victoria when they put flyers up in our office at the airport,” he said. “It was announced just as our jobs were starting to look a bit shaky so I registered my details just in case, and thankfully I did.”

Fletcher, who has previously worked as a night cleaner for Coles Services, relished the opportunity to return to work.

“It is making a huge difference to my life,” he said. “It’s the difference between keeping my car loan paid and defaulting on my bills.”

Fletcher said he was grateful the initiative enabled workers like him to stay busy, stay afloat and feel useful.

“It’s great that I’m actually able to contribute something to the virus effort. It’s a valuable service not just for employees like me, but also to the community.”

Displaced workers can register their interest in seeking employment at Working for Victoria.