Today is International Justice Day for Cleaners. The day is an opportunity to pause for thought about the situation too many workers are now facing in Australia. It is an opportunity to ask questions on the systems in place in our workplaces.
Cleaners work hard in our communities but pay has stood still, work has become more insecure and contractors won’t listen. The system is stacked against being able to win a secure job, through constant attacks on existing pay and security. Workers are living on wages that are the minimum or falling victim to illegal wage theft. Anger is growing over corners being cut in many workplaces, increasing risk of harm.
In the race to the bottom, with contracts being regularly undercut by cleaning companies, too often conditions faced by our cleaners are unfair and illegal.
Jo-anne Schofield, National Secretary of United Voice, the cleaner union, says, “Day-to-day our union is faced with the constant attacks to this workforce, as our cleaner members simply try to do their job and earn a living.
“Today is an opportunity to take stock of how our offices and workplaces are being cleaned – just what is the deal? If you are not sure, if you are concerned about corners being cut and wage theft, then ask questions.
“There are far too many shocking examples of egregious behaviour, job insecurity and wage theft in the cleaning industry. Systemic exploitation, wage theft and non-compliance have become too commonplace in the sector.
“The rules must be changed, rules that have overseen inequality continuing to rise in Australia, and the incidence of low-paid work increasing.
“There is a lack of access to bargaining for workers in sectors important to the community, like cleaning. Our call is for conditions to be fixed in the sector with a move to industry bargaining.
“For cleaners, the race to the bottom for pay and conditions must end.
“On International Justice Day for Cleaners, we commend the resilience and the dignity of this workforce, when facing even the most difficult circumstances.”
What is the fix for cleaners?
With the wage crisis, and the resulting inequality crisis, cleaners are working longer, harder, for less job security and less pay. The safety net award system is not giving them the voice they are demanding. We need the rules to change and for our members to have meaningful bargaining.
Cleaners’ power to negotiate for wages and conditions in the current system has been taken from them.
Cleaners have no voice in a system that has encouraged companies maintaining high control, minimizing labour costs and maximizing profits.
Enterprise bargaining does not function in industries like cleaning, where wages are cut or stifled to ensure cleaning companies win contracts.
Cleaners want to be able to bargain. To bargain not just with small employers, but with the big companies and governments that control wages. We want solutions that work across the whole industry. We want jobs we can count on.