Clean up the cleaning industry

Clean up the cleaning industry

This weekend, the ABC Radio’s Saturday Extra presented by Andrew West shamed the cleaning industry and 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.

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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.

As a start, 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.

Other articles listed below expose some of the dirty secrets in the cleaning industry.

The Australian cleaning industry: a clearer perspective

The Australian cleaning industry: a clearer perspective

Lowest paid workers ripped off

Low-paid cleaners working for subcontractors in the commercial cleaning industry across Australia have been ripped off for thousands of dollars in wages and entitlements, workplace investigations have found.

The short-changed cleaners have been employed to work at several major big business sites by subcontractors who pay them flat hourly wages and deny the payment of overtime or penalty rates.

Coles-lowest paid workers ripped off

FWO promotes Dob in service

Sydney Morning Herald: Business Day report on what Fair Work Australia is doing about the problem.

Below is a snippet from the FWO website outlining what can be done to help those in need.

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 not only unfair to employees who are underpaid or disadvantaged but also 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

Most cleaning companies now days look fantastic on paper as they have had a consultant or marketing expert put together their submissions. They promise you the world, offering free services, stating that they employ all staff according to the Cleaning Award, promising triple accreditation of WHS / QA / Environment and the list goes on. Their price is significantly less and so you go Wow! That’s a great price –  let’s hire them. Yet if you look closely at their offering it is full of contradiction and lies. They have often fooled large blue-chip clients and high profile building owners, which make you believe that they are doing the right thing. Up until now you really didn’t need to worry…

Your largest risk was whether they would did a good job or not. This has now changed significantly. Read more


FWO Natalie James

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

INCLEAN magazine is the premier cleaning and hygiene industry magazine in the Australian and New Zealand markets. It delivers need-to-know information to contracted and in-house service providers, product distributors and manufacturers. So when a publication of such high impact publishes multiple stories about illegal activities in the industry it is worth taking note. Read more

Strata reform for 2 million NSW residents

The cleaning industry is one of the largest employers in Australasia

One in every 11 workers is employed in the Australasian cleaning industry, underscoring its economic importance. Even more importantly, the cleaning industry is responsible for maintaining public health and hygiene.

Not only is the cleaning industry important in terms of labour, it is also one of the most innovative. A constant flow of genuinely new products and services underscores delivery of services for efficient and environmentally sustainable operations.

It is sad therefore that there are some companies that are undermining the good reputation of the industry as a whole and in particular those companies that adhere to ethical and sustainable business principles. Read more

Contract commercial cleaning has a dirty secret

shopping centre

Low-paid contract commercial cleaning staff are working harder for less as some unscrupulous employers cut wages in a bid to remain competitive.  Pressure to improve profits by not only underpaying staff but also cutting corners has led to poor standards of hygiene in some of our public places.

The cleaning industry seems to be getting dirtier by the day for some, especially some minority groups, as they are becoming major victims of scams wherein they lose up to $15000 a year in wages and benefits. Read more

Join the campaign for fair pay for cleaners

Frank Boross - fair work campaigner

I have been campaigning for change in the commercial cleaning industry for years. It looks like things are finally moving towards a more equitable system. Havencab always provides open and  transparent pricing, ensuring that our clients never have to worry about nasty surprises or legal repercussions. Contact us if you are in doubt about your position.