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Thank your cleaner

Friday 14 October 2016 9:02am

Chemistry 1 Building cleaner Bev Tokona.

Wednesday October 19 is “Thank your cleaner day,” a time to acknowledge the work that gets done once we leave our workplace for the day.

The annual Thank your Cleaner day is a national event dedicated to cleaners to show they are valued and appreciated. New Zealanders are being encouraged to get involved and acknowledge their own workplace cleaner.

Suggestions including leaving a thank-you note out on the day – there is even a “Thank Your Cleaner Day” letter template that you can personalise to your cleaner. See the Thank your Cleaner website for more details.

The University of Otago currently has six contract cleaning firms on-site, collectively employing in excess of 200 cleaning staff. This is managed by Custodial Services.

Custodial Services Manager Mindy McLellan is urging University staff to get behind the national event.

She says co-ordinating a large number of different requirements across campuses is a big undertaking, but because the majority of cleaners work out of hours, they are predominantly unseen. “Thank your cleaner day is the perfect time to acknowledge the person who works in your building, even if you’ve never met them,” she says.


Custodial Services operates around the clock, with a staff member on-site 7am-4pm weekdays, and is available by mobile phone out of hours. It also manages contract cleaning firms cleaning our campuses in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and employs an in-house cleaner at the College of Education in Southland.

As well as being responsible for routine cleaning, the cleaning firms are constantly called on to carry out urgent jobs such as cleaning extraordinary messes during the weekends and over the exam period.

Mindy says that Summer School and shorter term breaks make it increasingly difficult to get a decent window of time for major comprehensive cleans, such as scrubbing floors and laying polish, high dusting and special detail work. But she says the firms all work really hard to provide a clean and hygienic environment for University staff.

Custodial Services history

Before Custodial Services was established in 1986, cleaning of the University was managed by one caretaker who lived on-site, had an office in the foyer of the Clock Tower building, and managed a small workforce of day and night cleaners.

Then Custodial Services was set up, originally based in off the Physics loading bay, with one manager, one stores person, two trainer/supervisors and around 50 University-employed cleaners.

By 1999 the campus had grown in buildings, staff and student numbers, and the University employed around 100 cleaning and custodial staff. Graeme Fogelberg, Vice-Chancellor at the time, made the decision to outsource the cleaning, and contract firms took over.

Some of those cleaners originally employed by the University are still cleaning today, now working for one of the contract firms.

Mindy McLellan and Viv Washington.

Custodial Services today has the same full time plus on-call manager (Mindy), who writes, compiles and manages the contract documentation and tender processes for all Custodial-related contracts across University of Otago sites throughout New Zealand, including some residential colleges.

Contracts include cleaning services, provision of basic stock items, sanitary and hygiene dispensers, air fresh units, pest control, window cleaning, carpet cleaning, laundry provision, paper, soap and sanitiser dispensers, and consulting service to all University customers for all custodial-related issues.

Viv Washington is the part-time Custodial Services Assistant and Mindy’s “right-hand person” who manages the store stock and arranges stock ordering, delivery and pick up for all departments and cleaning contractors. She has a high profile around campus carrying out cleaning audits (including H&S aspects) on all buildings, and meeting departmental representatives to discuss cleaning issues or giving advice on dispensers. She also fills in at short notice for the mailroom staff.