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Australian cleaners find United Voice helps win proper pay and conditions
Australian Union United Voice has stepped in to help a group of cleaners win the pay and conditions they deserve.
The union says that in late 2014, when cleaning contractor Pickwick won the contract for the Murray Bridge Marketplace shopping centre, it hired new workers and compelled them to provide an Australian Business Number. It says that in 2015, cleaners were paid a flat rate of AU$19 (£9.90) an hour for any day of the year and that they did not receive paid annual leave, sick leave or superannuation, so were effectively casual employees even though they were regularly rostered.
The minimum Award rate is AU$23.08 (£12.03), plus 'penalty' rates for weekends and public holidays; yet cleaners at Murray Bridge Marketplace were not, reports the union, paid any penalty rates for working on these days.
Having joined the union in January of this year, the cleaners discovered how badly underpaid they had been. United Voice officials found that they had been paid well below the minimum legal rate since being employed by Pickwick; some were underpaid up to $520 per fortnight for as long as 18 months.
When United Voice representatives raised the underpayment with Pickwick management, they were told that workers were actually employed by a company called VeriClean - which none of the cleaners had ever heard of - and that the issues were for VeriClean to resolve. This is despite the cleaners having been employed by Pickwick, operating under Pickwick managers since 2014 whilst wearing a Pickwick uniform.
United Voice Officials then contacted the property management company for the site, Jones Lang LaSalle. When Jones Lang LaSalle was made aware of the issues, its representatives acted responsibly. They required Pickwick to rectify the underpayment and to employ cleaners directly under the pay and conditions of the Cleaning Services Award.
Pickwick conceded and began paying cleaners under the Award, but only on a casual probationary basis - despite their years of service and regular rostered hours.
At the time of broadcast, United Voice representatives are working with the Fair Work Ombudsman to secure cleaners' backpay and to win secure employment at the site, whoever their contractor may be.
"Sham contracting is a serious problem for workers in the cleaning industry," says branch secretary David Di Troia. "Cleaners sometimes feel they don't have the power to make changes at their workplace or question their conditions.
"As union members, workers can support each other to win fair treatment and better wages and conditions at work.
"Well done to the workers who took that step and stood up to the scourge of sham contracting in South Australia."
28th April 2016