Melbourne’s dirty secret: rorts and rip offs in CBD cleaning

 

( A survey found that that more than half the cleaners employed in the CBD are international students. Many of the international students employed in cleaning were born in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Colombia. The investigation found that some are paid as little as $15 an hour, $9.35 an hour below the rate paid under the Clean Start city-wide agreement struck in 2009. It is also $7 below the award.)

If ever you see an Indian working as a cleaner next time in the malls, in other buildings you may look at them differently. They can be international students working in lower than award wages while paying their way for education which can be quite costly.

Office cleaners working in Melbourne’s CBD are routinely subjected to wage rip-offs, exploitation and verbal abuse, a covert investigation by United Voice, the cleaners’ union has revealed.

International students are the major victims of scams in which cleaners could lose up to $15,000 a year in wages and benefits. Overseas students, who are part of a $15 billion national education export industry, are regularly subjected to bullying, intimidation and racism, and threatened with the sack if they discuss their plight, the investigation found.

United Voice state secretary Jess Walsh said the Glad Group, one of the biggest companies responsible for the cut price subcontracting of cleaners in the CBD, must commit to eradicating the practice. Commenting on the report, ‘A Dirty Business – The Exploitation of International Students in Melbourne’s Office Cleaning Industry’, Ms Walsh warned that the abuse of international students could inflict major damage to our education industry. The solution is to treat all cleaners equally as proposed in Clean Start 2013.

“This report reveals that deep inside our grandest, shiniest office towers there is a secret world rife with bullying, intimidation and fear. Cut price subcontractors, working for companies like the Glad Group, have created poisonous environments to hide illegally low wages and other abuses.

The ‘ghost workers’ who do this work are some of the most vulnerable members of our community: migrants and international students who often don’t know their rights,” said Ms Walsh.

“This appalling situation has come about because ‘reputable’ companies, such as the Glad Group, are cutting corners by subcontracting to unscrupulous fly-by-night outfits that underpay and abuse their workers. We call on major companies, like the Glad Group, to show leadership in cleaning up this industry by committing to new Clean Start collective agreements.

“We want cleaning companies to clean up their act by no longer resorting to dodgy subcontractors and pay all cleaners the same. A significant proportion of contractors have indicated they will recommit to Clean Start, but major players like Glad must do so too.

“We were shocked by the findings of this investigation. Alarm bells should be ringing in our universities and colleges. If not stopped, this exploitation of students will threaten the long term future of Australia’s international education industry.”

The seven month covert investigation across 100 of Melbourne’s largest office buildings found that about half the contractors operating in the CBD engage sub-contractors for part of their work, and this is where abuses occur. Inquiries began after union organisers heard anecdotally about international students working for sub-contractors who were known to under-pay and to deny basic employment conditions.

The way to end these abuses is to treat cleaners equally by ensuring the Clean Start agreement applies to all, whether they are employed by contractors or by sub-contractors.  Extending Clean Start to all workers will destroy the incentive for the rip-offs exposed by the United Voice investigation.

FACT SHEET

·  The investigation uncovered illegal rates of pay ranging from $15 an hour to $20 an hour in approximately in one in four city office buildings compared to $24.35 an hour under the Clean Start city-wide agreement struck in 2009.

·  Subcontractors employed some cleaners on ABNs while others were employed “cash in hand”. Cleaners employed this way were cheated of sick leave, holiday leave and penalties. Investigators estimate that building owners could be defrauded by up to $150,000 per building, due to practices uncovered in this report.

·  An earlier survey found that more than half the cleaners employed in the CBD are international students. Many of the international students employed in cleaning were born in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Colombia. The investigation found that some are paid as little as $15 an hour, $9.35 an hour below the rate paid under the Clean Start city-wide agreement struck in 2009. It is also $7 below the award.

·  The seven month United Voice investigation occurred under difficult conditions due to the secretive nature of sub-contractors active in city office cleaning.

·  Subcontractors changed cleaners’ shift times when they heard United Voice investigators were due to visit. Investigators obtained a text message in which sub-contracted workers were told that if approached they were to claim to be staff of the principal contractor, rather than sub-contractors. At other sites sub-contracted workers were disguised in uniforms of the principal contractor.

·  Figures released recently revealed that fees and living expenses for international students averaged $38,000 annually, and that Australia was a more expensive educational destination than the US and the UK. Data from Australian Education International showed student numbers down 20 per cent from their peak three years ago.

· In order to protect the cleaners, all of whom fear retribution for speaking out, it has been necessary to avoid identifying them personally.

Short URL: https://indiandownunder.com.au/?p=2605

Posted by on Oct 10 2013. Filed under Australian News, Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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