In an Australian first, a company created by refugee cleaners after a two-year legal battle for their entitlements will launch a pilot program with Airbnb. In the ethical tourism partnership, the cleaning company will be promoted via the platform as the preferred cleaning company for Airbnb hosts.
The pilot will be launched in Canberra today, the first Australian location for Airbnb to launch an ethical cleaning partnership. The pilot offers a way forward for jobs in the gig economy.
Harmony Community Cleaning is Canberra’s first social enterprise cleaning firm. The company was created in Canberra following a two-year legal battle by a group of S’gaw Karen refugees for their entitlements from a school cleaning contractor. The Federal Court judgement found that their previous employer had breached the Fair Work Act. The workers, bonded by shared experiences in refugee camps and in fighting the underpayment case, decided there had to be a better way of continuing to work in the sector. They have formed their own business committed to ethical employment standards – creating a collective means the cleaners are now their own boss and are paid secure wages.
Jo-anne Schofield, National Secretary of United Voice says, “This is about cleaning with purpose. The cleaning pilot has created something that just hasn’t existed until today.
“We are thrilled to see Harmony Cleaning Company continue to develop as a for-purpose company with secure jobs and pay.
“Too often the cleaning industry has been shown to be incapable of cleaning up after itself, stories of wage theft and unethical behaviour are all too common. The Karen community’s collective shows there can be a way forward for the sector.
“This is about building sustainable jobs into the new economy.
“Hosts who support the pilot will know that their cleaners are being paid the correct rate and that they are supporting an ethical cleaning collective. The pilot program brings both dignity and a professional, properly paid workforce into rented properties.
“Businesses need to get on board and we need to start seeing similar community development programs rolled out to support good jobs in the new economy.”