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

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

As The Havencab Group’s Director, I have long campaigned on ethical behaviour from those operating in the commercial cleaning sector. I have poured this passion into a heartfelt essay (here), which took out first place in this year’s 2017 CHU Strata Community Awards. The article exposes unethical practices that exist in the billion dollar cleaning industry and is highly relevant to the strata industry.

Frank Boross - fair work campaigner

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

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.

Fair Work has now brought in Section 550 of the Fair Work Act, which can prosecute the entire supply chain including the Strata Manager, Building Manager and even the Owners Corporation. This puts anyone involved in the contract at great risk. Please see the FWO link for further information https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-media-releases/newsletter/august-2016/what-is-accessorial-liability

If you’re interested in cleaning up the mess, click here to download a FREE checklist of  Commercial Cleaning Contracts: 6 Tricks used by the Unscrupulous so that you don’t get hoodwinked. You can use this checklist during the tender process as an aid to remind you to ask the right questions.

Labour content of any contract in excess of 75 percent of the contract price

In general, businesses behave unethically because they believe they have a lot to gain by acting in a certain way. In the cleaning industry this occurs every minute of every day with some companies choosing to pay less than award conditions or offering commissions to get work. This is wrong and unfair, and can lead to prosecution of anyone involved by the Fair Work Commission.

Obviously, commercial cleaning companies are in the business of managing labour for profit. According to Barbara Connolly, national officer of the Building Services Contractors Association of Australia “The labour content of any contract being something in excess of 75 percent of the contract price, the industry therefore is acutely conscious of industrial relations issues regarding wage rates, including shift and weekend penalties and the impact of workers’ compensation and public liability costs. Because there are no entry requirements, the industry is a large employer of people from ethnic backgrounds, but it is a mistake to think this means the industry lacks professionalism or career paths for those individuals who embrace the opportunities it offers.”

“A comparison of the Australian market to the global situation shows Australian productivity rates rank among the highest in the world. The Australian average for commercial sites is 800 square metres per hour compared to a US average of 400 square metres, and slightly higher in European countries. The Australian rates have been achieved not with a reduction in standards, but with an industry-wide uptake of training on every level.”

It is refreshing to hear that the FWO and leaders in our industry can understand and relate to issues that are critical to how FM and the cleaning industry work together. The cleaning industry in Australia is trained and motivated, however, better communication with its stakeholders is needed to raise and improve the profile of the industry. This would engender greater respect for the services the industry provides. Further, the cleaning and facilities management sectors need to more readily partner with each other to improve outcomes for both industries.

FWO Natalie James

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James.

Major benefit to you of working with an ethical business

This is the major benefit of working with a group such as ours (The Havencab Group), because we offer a full suite of services, including commercial cleaning, to the facilities management industry. For facilities that are managed by us, owners do not have to worry about whether or not workers are directly employed and paid correct wages. Strata managers and Owners Committee members who deal with us will NOT have to worry about personal prosecution, public humiliation and financial penalties from the Fair Work Ombudsman representatives investigating subcontracted staff, penalties and prosecution for illegal wage scams.