Communist Party of Australia

We acknowledge the Sovereignty of the First Nations’ Peoples.

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Issue #1601      July 10, 2013

Cleaners welcome Fair Work Ombudsman’s audit

United Voice, the cleaners’ union, says the audit of up to 1,000 cleaning contractors begun by the Fair Work Ombudsman is a warning to shonky contractors and their clients that it is time to clean up their acts.

The Ombudsman has also announced an investigation into tendering and procurement processes of eight major shopping centres in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Michael Crosby, national president of United Voice said, “Cleaners welcome the Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigation into contract cleaning.

“Many companies run successful and ethical businesses. They do the right thing by their clients and ensure cleaners are legally and fairly employed under the Clean Start Agreement, which sets the national quality standards in the industry.

He said that then there are the others – shonky operators, who will do anything for a quick buck:

  • undercut competitors to win contracts
  • underpay wages and entitlements
  • pay cash in hand
  • provide inadequate training and unsafe working conditions
  • engage in sham contracting (where cleaners are duped into obtaining ABN numbers so the contractors can avoid paying legal obligations such as workers’ compensation, sick leave, annual leave, etc).

“Cleaners are especially vulnerable to exploitation. Their work is solitary, all too often performed late at night and early in the morning, when the rest of us are enjoying the comfort of our families and homes. Many are international students and/or from non-English speaking backgrounds.

“For too long many property owners and principal contractors have ignored the real cost of their actions: a hidden workforce of exploited, overworked and underpaid workers struggling to survive on poverty wages.

“We acknowledge the Ombudsman’s collaborative approach to enforcing legal standards and welcome the investigation into tendering and procurement practices, which are the key to ridding the industry of dodgy operators protected by complicated contracting supply chains.”

Mr Crosby said that the Ombudsman’s message to those companies and individuals is loud and clear: “It is not acceptable for organisations to outsource work to the lowest-cost contractor and turn a blind eye to any subsequent unfair treatment of low-paid workers. Such behaviour can be detrimental to an organisation’s reputation and may also be considered unlawful.” (FWO, 02/07/2013)

“The industry must heed this audit. It’s time all property owners, tenants and contractors took responsibility for their industry and worked with us to build an industry with Clean Start standards.

“The hear no evil, see no evil approach cannot continue,” says Michael Crosby.   

Next article – Six years of the NT Intervention is six years too long

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