Bans on cleaning toilets head the list of industrial actions planned for some of Melbourne’s best known office buildings.
City office workers also face the possibility of toilet paper not being replaced, liquid soaps not replenished in bathrooms, and bans on emptying rubbish bins and vacuuming.
Cleaners working for Consolidated Property Services have voted overwhelmingly for a set of industrial actions because of the company’s refusal to negotiate properly towards a new Clean Start enterprise agreement.
Buildings that may soon be hit by the bans are Freshwater Place, 101 Collins Street and the Optus Centre at 367 Collins St. This follows a ballot of cleaners conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission which saw 96 per cent of those participating supporting all the proposed actions.
Cleaners want Consolidated to sign the Clean Start agreement already endorsed by one major cleaning company, Glad, which has committed to a 3 per cent pay rise and an end to exploitation of international students as a source of cut-rate cleaners.
“Consolidated is the biggest company standing in the way of us putting an end to the chronic rip-offs of international students in city office cleaning, and winning wage justice for cleaners generally,” said United Voice assistant secretary Ben Redford.
“Consolidated is the fastest growing company in the sector, but it is also the most obstructionist. It is refusing to share the benefits of its growth with the very people who make it possible.”
“Consolidated is playing dirty tricks and double dealing at the bargaining table. They simply cannot be serious with the conditions they claim they want. They’re playing tricks and cleaners have had enough.”
Consolidated’s biggest competitor, Glad, signed a deal in May awarding cleaners a 3% pay rise for each of the next four years. The Glad deal is conditional on six of its competitors, headed by Consolidated and representing in total more than 90 per cent of the CBD cleaning market, signing the same deal.
But Consolidated is offering only a 2.4 per cent pay rise and is seeking to impose unworkable conditions on any agreement. It is trying to insist that 18 companies, many of which are not part of the CBD industry, also sign the deal before it takes effect.
“More than anyone else Consolidated is preventing a settlement. When office workers find their toilets are filthy, the soap and the paper has run out, the rubbish bins are overflowing, they’ll know who to blame,” said Redford.
“Cleaners are absolutely essential to the running of this city, but they don’t get the recognition and the rewards they deserve.
“They are an invisible workforce. It’s only when they don’t do the job that they get noticed. Well, they intend to be noticed in buildings cleaned by Consolidated.
“There’s a clause in this agreement that will put an end to dodgy subcontracting and rip offs in office cleaning. Consolidated does not use subcontractors itself, but the practice is rife.
“And while it blocks the deal Consolidated is enabling subcontracting to continue across the city. It is effectively keeping the door open for dodgy subcontracting.”
Redford said the move to add even more companies to the agreement was just gamesmanship. “That is not negotiating. That is playing games,” says Redford.
“Saying they want 18 signatories to Clean Start exposes their bad faith. They know it’s unworkable. It’s a dirty trick."
Consolidated employs more than 400 cleaners across 28 buildings in Melbourne’s CBD.