Cleaning up the cleaning industry

  • Posted by: Frank
  • Category: Latest

This weekend, the ABC Radio’s Saturday Extra presented by Andrew West raised the issue of cleaners’ pay. Andrew notes that Havencab promotes the payment of fair wages to their workers and that there is now an industry push to have other cleaning companies follow Havencab’s lead.

Andrew said that “A new scheme aims to use market forces to reward companies who pay cleaners fairly. The Cleaning Accountability Framework, instigated by the union United Voice, is an accreditation system that has been operating in pilot form, involving parties all the way along the supply chain – from building owners and investors to the cleaners themselves.” Listen here.

Other industry reports in the media

The ABC’s 7:30 presenter Leigh Sales has also drawn attention to disputes between cleaning contractors and their cleaners in regard to pay and working conditions.  The ABC program reports “A cleaner at retail giant Myer has been sacked following a 7.30 story about his employment conditions.”

Last week, a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation found that Woolworths cleaners were paid ‘as little as $7 an hour’ and Woolworths has been accused of ignoring “rampant exploitation” of its contractors, with some having to deal with absurdly low salaries.

Our cleaning industry is in crisis

Unfortunately, these unethical practices have been going on for years. Spotless, an international services contractor, received media attention following the Walk for Cleaners a few years ago. This followed a series of strikes by Spotless-employed shopping centre cleaners in demand of better pay and working conditions. Recent disputes only scratch the surface of a much wider crisis in the industry, which critics say has been caused by the predominant use of contracts.

The commercial cleaning industry here produces over $8 billion in revenue, according to market research company IbisWorld, making the industry attractive to unethical businesses that don’t pay workers fairly.

Many have argued that a large portion of Australian cleaning contractors are lowering or avoiding minimum pay and working conditions in a race to the bottom-line to secure cleaning contracts, resulting in substandard pay and working conditions for cleaners.

What do you need to know when selecting a commercial cleaning contractor, and what is your greatest risk?

You can read what you need to know here and also download a FREE checklist which you can use during the tender process as an aid to remind you to ask the right questions at Commercial Cleaning Contracts: 6 Tricks used by the Unscrupulous so that you don’t get hoodwinked.

The Ombudsman has recommended Woolworths expand its Proactive Compliance Deed, entered into last year in the wake of similar abuses in its trolley collection network, to its cleaning supply chain. It has also called on Woolworths, Coles and IGA to become members of the industry-led Cleaning Accountability Framework. The Centre for Business and Social Innovation at the University of Technology Sydney has just been awarded an Australian Research Council grant to further develop the framework, and analyse its effectiveness.

The Australian cleaning industry: a clearer perspective

Lowest paid workers ripped off

FWO promotes Dob in service

Sydney Morning Herald: Business Day

FWO asks – Help us keep workplaces fair

Know someone who’s not getting a fair go? Heard of a business or organisation that isn’t playing by the rules? We can help you resolve the issue or you can share your information with us anonymously.

Most employers and employees try to follow workplace laws. Sometimes honest mistakes are made. Occasionally businesses or employees deliberately break the law to try and get a competitive advantage. This is unfair to:

  • employees who are underpaid or disadvantaged
  • employers who are following the law and trying to compete with businesses who are underpaying their staff.

How you can help us keep Australian workplaces fair

Option 1: Get help resolving issues in the workplace

Is someone in your workplace not getting a fair go? Do you want advice on how to resolve the issue?

Follow our step-by-step guide to resolving workplace disputes.

Option 2: Report a workplace concern anonymously

Concerned someone isn’t complying with workplace laws but don’t want to get involved directly? You can report the issue to us anonymously in English or another language.

You won’t be contacted but your information:

  • will help FWO plan current and future education and enforcement activities
  • may be shared with other Commonwealth, State or Territory bodies where it’s likely to help with the administration or enforcement of a law.

Make an anonymous report – English. Links for making a report in other languages are available here.

Fair work, fair pay: Shining a light on dirty secrets


Strata managers beware – check your contractors as the FWO is enforcing compliance


Contract commercial cleaning has a dirty secret



Author: Frank
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