Cleaning is a low-skilled role. It often attracts workers from overseas with limited English and low employment experience in Australia. The inquiry identified particular pressures associated with supermarket cleaning that played a significant role in determining whether a cleaning business retained its contract. These pressures include the expectation that cleaners will be required to work late evenings / early mornings and cleaning is to be completed in short timeframes (at minimal cost).
Workers engaged to clean supermarkets are also subject to a high level of scrutiny in relation to the store cleanliness by the supermarket management and the public. A cleaner is required to scrub, mop and polish the floors, as well as clean windows, toilets (public and staff), lunchrooms, store-rooms, staff offices and car parks.
Cleaning is physically demanding work and it is not uncommon for cleaners to be afforded approximately two to three hours to complete duties to the specifications detailed by the supermarket. Cleaning performance is regularly checked and scored. If scores for the store are at an unacceptable level in any area cleaners are asked to explain why and what they will do to rectify the situation. It is not uncommon for cleaners to report that they do not consider they are afforded sufficient time to complete all the required specifications to a high level.