Posted by Sam Salvidge · December 04, 2013 10:12 AM
The contract cleaning industry and community supporters came together in Canberra today at a historic ceremony to mark the re-signing by 16 cleaning contractors on to Clean Start Collective Agreements.
The first Clean Start Collective Agreement was signed in Canberra in 2008 after a long, hard and often noisy battle by cleaners for fair pay, better jobs and higher standards in Australia’s crisis-ridden contract cleaning industry. The latest Agreement includes a 4% pay increase and stronger protection against immoral sub-contracting practices.
Louise Tarrant, National Secretary, of United Voice the cleaners’ union, says ““Today is a turning point for Australia’s contract cleaning industry.
“The recommitment by key contractors to the Clean Start Collective Agreement for a further four years is significant because it consolidates industry reform which was initiated, fought for and won by workers.
“Low paid cleaners came up with the solutions to stop the race to the bottom in their industry. They convinced property owners, tenants and cleaning companies there was a better way – Clean Start - and they have proven it delivers. In the process, cleaners improved their lives and secured higher building maintenance standards for owners and better services for tenants.
“We don’t pretend the battle is over or that all shonky contractors have been driven from the industry. This year’s audit of 1,000 cleaning contractors by the Fair Work Ombudsman in response to illegal practices in the industry proves there is more to be done. But the Agreement makes it harder for these operators and provides protection for cleaners and ethical contractors.
“We congratulate cleaners and companies at today’s ceremony for their leadership in this essential industry.
“Now it’s time for the rest of the industry to respect their cleaning workforce and get behind the industry leaders today re-affirming the value of Clean Start for everybody. Negotiations are progressing and we look forward to more sign ups. Their choice is clear: be part of the solution or be part of the problem,” says Louise Tarrant.
Present at the re-signing ceremony at the ACT Legislative Assembly were cleaners, contractors, and political, religious and community leaders, including Imam Adama Konda (Canberra Islamic Institution), Archpriest Father Ilija Dragonsavljevic (Serbian Orthodox Church), Diana Abdel-Rahman (President, Australian Muslim Voice), and Bishop Pat Power (retired Roman Catholic Bishop).
Canberra cleaner Chris Wagland says “I've been a cleaner for 29 years. I work to provide for my three sons and their futures. I take pride in my job and want to be supported to do it properly.
“Before Clean Start, the industry hit rock bottom. Things were really tough for cleaners like me. We were under more and more pressure. It became impossible to do the job well. That's when I decided enough was enough.
“What’s changed the most since Clean Start is the attitude. Cleaners have more self-worth and more confidence about what they do. I get more money, which is good, but the job security that goes with it is the most important.
“My supervisors had their doubts, but they have come on side. They see the benefits of a win-win situation. With Clean Start, contractors can get work at a reasonable price without being undercut by dodgy contractors.
“I’m proud of what we have achieved. We can’t go back. Clean Start is the future for our industry,” says Chris Wagland.
An Australian union representing cleaners at Westfield malls shelved strike action in favour of a worldwide sweep through the global retail giant’s books. Now it’s shopping reports of company tax avoidance in the US, UK and Australia.
For two years the giant Westfield shopping-centre group refused to countenance demands to back a modest pay rise for some 1,700 people who clean its Australian shopping malls.
The traditional, stereotypical union response to such a deadlock might have been to pull the cleaners out. Instead, the relevant union, United Voice, determined to put more “cleaners” in.
They put the accounting cleaners through Westfield across three continents, focusing on the tax practices of the Australian-based multinational in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The tactic has not – at least not yet – seen the union’s members get their pay rise. But it sure has shone a light on dubious aspects of Westfield’s corporate behaviour.
The union, and its associates and agents here, in the US, and the UK, have compiled evidence of tax dodging on an epic scale.
In the United States in 2012 alone, according to the union, Westfield paid some US$116 million less in property tax than it should have.
The union covering hospitality workers and cleaners in Australia has launched a campaign to expose unscrupulous employers who exploit international students.
United Voice says the students are among the most exploited when it comes to the worst paid jobs in Melbourne.
"We've heard stories in the hospitality industry of international students being paid as little as 7 or 8 dollars (AUS) an hour," said Jess Walsh, the Victorian secretary for United Voice.
"Now in Australia the minimum wage is just over 16 dollars an hour,"
Dr Mark Zirnsak from the Justice and International Mission with the Uniting Church said there are cases where overseas students working as cleaners have neither met their employers nor seen a pay slip.
A recent union survey of 200 international students found one quarter received 10 dollars an hour or less and 60 per cent earned less than the minimum wage.
As well, United Voice says students reported being subjected to discrimination and abuse.
"What can happen is a group of international students perhaps Chinese students or Indian students might start working in a building and they find they are systematically treated differently from the other cleaners who are doing the same work," said Jess Walsh from United Voice.
"Perhaps given some of the tougher jobs perhaps reprimanded more severely if they make a mistake."
Posted by Sam Salvidge · November 28, 2013 2:22 PM
Cleaners need your help!
We have discovered that the Glad Group, one of Australia’s largest cleaning companies, has been ripping off international student cleaners.
And – they’ve ripped off their cleaners repeatedly in the past! Glad has been forced to repay almost $200,000 in unpaid wages to cleaners and fined $62,000. It almost seems like this company has built its business ripping off cleaners. Please give us your feedback: what should cleaners and the community do to stop Glad exploiting its workers? Please fill in our one minute survey now
Westfield Group is facing a challenge to its social, environmental and governance policies from a global coalition of labour and community groups. In Australia, the focus is on a dispute with the union, United Voice, on behalf of the more than 1600 cleaners in Westfield’s malls. In the US, the focus has been on Westfield’s contribution to property taxes which fund services like schools. The driving force behind the campaign is a veteran union organiser and the national president of United Voice, Michael Crosby. “Companies need to pay attention to Environmental Social and Governance (ESG),” he says. “On a tiny issue like cleaning they have blown us off and now it is coming back to bite them.” Westfield co-chief executive, Steven Lowy, dismisses the claims. On cleaning, he says Westfield has dealt in a very professional manner with an issue that is about wages being paid by contractors. On US land taxes, Lowy says his group has paid its property taxes “as assessed by the County and in accordance with California law, just like everyone else”. But that has not stopped Crosby. Last month he held a meeting in the Washington headquarters of the American Federation of Teachers to agitate for concerted action. Along with the teachers were representatives of the Teamsters, whose members include public employees like firemen who are paid by property taxes in states like Florida – and the London-based Economic Policy Group. Crosby has also commissioned a report on Westfield in Britain. And he is planning to “reach out to” environmental groups. “The result of disrespecting the cleaners is that Westfield will have problems everywhere they operate in the world,” he says. “They are not behaving rationally. If we got everything we asked for, it is only the equivalent of the depreciation on two corporate jets.”
Posted by Sam Salvidge · November 28, 2013 2:15 PM
The cleaner’s union, United Voice last night ran the first of a series of raids on a leading cleaning company after exposing its practice of repeatedly underpaying international students.
Last night’s action confirmed that subcontractors engaged by the Glad Group were illegally paying international student cleaners almost $6.00 an hour below award wages at 114 William Street, Melbourne.
Almost two-thirds of Glad Group’s city cleaners are international students and their mistreatment, as revealed in a United Voice investigation last month, threatens the viability of Australia’s export education industry.
The raids are following the revelation that Glad has been found on 25 occasions to have under-paid Melbourne cleaners a total of $57,651.51. And last year in the Federal Magistrates Court Glad was fined $62,000 and made to repay 31 Sydney cleaners a total of $133,845.93.
The cleaning industry seems to be getting murkier by the day for international students as they are becoming major victims of scams wherein they lose up to $15000 a year in wages and benefits.
Office cleaners working in Melbourne’s CBD are routinely subjected to wage rip-offs, exploitation and verbal abuse, a covert investigation by cleaners union United Voice has revealed. The investigation has also revealed that international students are the major victims of this scam.
The report reveals that deep inside our grandest, shiniest office towers is a secret world rife with bullying, intimidation and fear and that students working as cleaners are subject to exploitation and are under extreme stress in terms of job insecurity.
The report has also found that some office tower owners are duped of up to $150000 a year by cleaning firms promising to pay their staff $24.35 an hour but instead pay only $15 or less.
Posted by Sam Salvidge · November 28, 2013 2:11 PM
Cleaners at Westfield shopping centres across Australia have been campaigning to get a fair deal from the corporate giant, but Westfield has been crying poor, saying it can’t fund fair wages for low paid cleaners in their contracts. Now it turns out that they’ve been taking full advantage of American tax concessions to reap millions in extra profit. Check out the story by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Hiltzik!