Audits of 1000 cleaning industry businesses nationally commence

2 July 2013

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced audits of up to 1000 cleaning contractors throughout Australia as part of a national campaign.

Fair Work Inspectors will check cleaning contractors are paying employees their minimum lawful entitlements, including minimum hourly rates and penalty rates.

As part of the campaign, the Fair Work Ombudsman is also scrutinizing the processes for tendering and procuring cleaning services at a selection of major shopping centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has also written to 22,000 cleaning industry operators to highlight the free resources at www.fairwork.gov.au/cleaning that can help them understand workplace laws and comply with their obligations.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman, Michael Campbell, said the cleaning industry was being targeted as a follow-up to a similar campaign in 2010 in which 149 of 376 cleaning businesses audited (40 per cent) were found to be non-compliant with workplace laws and almost $500,000 was recovered for 934 underpaid workers.

“The cleaning industry continues to generate many complaints to our Agency and we recover hundreds of thousands of dollars for underpaid cleaning workers each year,” Mr Campbell said.

“The cleaning industry employs large numbers of young people and migrant workers who can be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their rights, so it’s important we are proactive about ensuring they are paid their full entitlements.”

Fair Work Inspectors will audit cleaning contractors located in areas including:

  • NSW/ACT: Sydney, Canberra, Albury, Armidale, Ballina, Cessnock, Coffs Harbour, Corowa, Deniliquin, Goulburn, Grafton, Griffith, Maitland, Newcastle, Orange, Punchbowl, Tamworth, Taree and Wollongong.
  • VIC: Melbourne, Ballarat, Colac, Geelong, Hamilton, Maryborough, Mildura, Sale, Shepparton, Torquay, Traralgon and Wonthaggi.
  • QLD: Brisbane, Cairns, Gatton, Gladstone, Gold Coast, Gympie, Mackay, Mount Isa, Roma, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba and Townsville.
  • WA: Perth, Broome, Bunbury, Collie, Derby, Mandurah and Port Hedland.
  • SA: Adelaide, Millicent, Mount Gambier, Murray Bridge and Whyalla.
  • Tas: Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie.
  • NT: Darwin and Alice Springs.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s examination of tendering and procurement processes will involve four major shopping centres in Sydney, two in Adelaide and one each in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Fair Work Inspectors will assess the governance processes that shopping centre owners have in place for awarding cleaning contracts to principal contractors, as well as principal contractors’ processes for procuring subcontractors.

Inspectors will also assess the mechanisms shopping centre owners have in place for ensuring the principal contractors and subcontractors who employ the cleaning staff at their centres are complying with workplace laws.

Mr Campbell said cleaning services was a very competitive sector and managers needed to be alert to the non-compliance risks associated with selecting low-cost providers.

“The selection of the lowest-cost contractor in a procurement process can sometimes result in the cleaning employees engaged by the contractor being underpaid their minimum lawful entitlements,” he said.

“The responsibility for ensuring the workplace rights of these workers is observed is not the cleaning contractors’ alone.

“It is not acceptable for organisations to outsource work to the lowest-cost contractor and turn a blind eye to any subsequent unfair treatment of low-paid workers. Such behaviour can be detrimental to an organisation’s reputation and may also be considered unlawful.”

Mr Campbell said the initiative to scrutinize tendering and contracting processes as part of a national campaign was part of a continuing focus by the Fair Work Ombudsman on the emerging issue of non-compliance with the Fair Work Act through procurement chains.

Mr Campbell said the Fair Work Ombudsman’s national campaigns aim to improve long-term compliance in specific industries by enforcing compliance with workplace laws and providing employers tailored information that enables them to understand and comply with obligations as easily as possible.

Employers and employees seeking assistance should visit www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. A free interpreter service is available by calling 13 14 50.

Media inquiries:

Tom McPherson, Media & Stakeholder Relations
0439 835 855
media@fwo.gov.au

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