Outrage forces MCC to act over wage rip-offs of MCG cleaners

The Melbourne Cricket Club has read the riot act to cleaning giant ISS demanding it stop using a dodgy sub-contractor at the MCG. The move comes after public outrage about MCG cleaners being bullied and ripped off by up to $16 p/hr.

In a statement to the cleaners’ union, United Voice, the club said: “The MCC has reminded ISS of their obligations under the current contract and we have advised that ISS must ensure that all of their employment obligations are met.”

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MCG cleaners confirmed on Saturday that ISS has offered jobs to subcontracted staff and will pay them the correct Award rates, meaning pay rises of up to $16 per hour. Cleaners also report that Ombudsman and WorkSafe inspectors conducted raids at Saturday’s Hawthorn vs Port Power game, interviewing ISS managers and subcontracted cleaners.

United Voice lawyers will now expand their investigation, going to the Fair Work Commission this week to push for full disclosure of cleaning contracts at the MCG over the past four football and cricket seasons as well as at other key city buildings cleaned by ISS. United Voice officials estimate that ISS, as the head contractor and real employer, owes low-paid MCG cleaners more than $500,000 in underpayments over a four year period.

Two weeks ago ISS subcontractor First Placement Consultants was exposed in the media for shipping overseas students from the Philippines to clean the MCG and paying them up to $16 an hour below award rates of pay. Cleaners report that similar rip-offs have occurred at other ISS sites. The company is contracted to clean the Supreme Court, the Telstra tower and QV complex.

“On the eve of the Grand Final, the Melbourne Cricket Club has read the riot act to its cleaning contractor ISS, effectively telling it to stop ripping off cleaners at the MCG. On Saturday ISS offered jobs to cleaners from the subcontractor and they will now be paid their correct rate of pay,” said Jess Walsh, United Voice Victorian Secretary.

“But cleaners have been exploited there for years so we will go to the Fair Work Commission to ask for company records so we can expose the exact scale of the rip offs. We estimate ISS owes low-paid MCG cleaners in excess of half a million dollars in underpayments over the past four years. Basically, this is a global company with revenue of $16 billion, taking money out of the pockets of some of Australia’s lowest-paid workers.

“This move by MCC is a huge win for MCG cleaners, many of whom just got a pay rise of $16 an hour as well as now receiving other legal entitlements they missed out on. We’re now going to the Fair Work Commission and we will ask that they grant us access to all contracts related to cleaning the MCG. We want to expose the full scale of rip offs that have gone on here.

“We believe those documents will show that ISS knew those cleaners were being underpaid, and that it actively encouraged their exploitation.

“But this is not just about the MCG. We know that ISS is addicted to dodgy sub-contracting and does it at many of its city sites so we will seek access to documents there too. Cleaners will continue this push until ISS, Consolidated, and other big cleaning companies sign up to our Clean Start* agreement so we get rid of these exploitative practices.

“We congratulate the MCC for taking strong action against these rip offs. We need other major clients to do the same.”

Two weeks ago United Voice officials filed a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman citing systemic rip offs and a culture of bullying of MCG cleaners. ISS claims to be an ethical employer that pays people fairly and treats them with respect, but investigations show ISS is using sub-contractors at numerous sites throughout Melbourne.

Last year cleaners reported that ISS was resorting to sub-contracting in at least half of its 14 city cleaning sites, and was using FPC at one of those sites, Freshwater Place.

“We believe the MCG to be a classic case of sham contracting where directly employed cleaners were passed off as independent contractors on ABNs,” said Walsh.

“Sub-contracted cleaners at the MCG work in ISS uniforms and take instructions from ISS managers. Clearly they are ISS employees, yet they are claimed to be sub-contractors engaged by FPC and they are paid far below the award.

“We applaud the MCC for insisting on proper employment practices. We are now calling on other managers and tenants at ISS buildings in the city to demand that ISS play straight with them as well.”

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, companies convicted of sham contracting face fines of up to $51,000. Individuals can be fined up to $10,200. Cleaners have campaigned for over a year to eliminate subcontracting in city cleaning. One major company, the Glad Group, has signed Clean Start* however progress is being hampered by industry giants like ISS and Consolidated Property Services.

Information about MCG cleaning sought by union lawyers includes the names of those employed to clean the stadium from 2011-14, who employed them, how they were employed, the times and dates they worked and how much they were paid. United Voice lawyers also want records showing whether ISS supplied the cleaners with a pay slip or if the cleaner, or FPC on the cleaners’ behalf, invoiced ISS.

The application to the FWC lists many alleged breaches. These include failure to pay casual pay loadings, failure to employ cleaners for the minimum four hour shift and failure to pay evening or weekend shift loadings. An MCG cleaner dismissed as “laughable” ISS claims it was unaware of these rip-offs.

“When the FPC people haven’t been getting paid they’re coming into the ISS manager’s office asking to get it fixed,” the cleaner said. “Of course they (ISS) knew it was happening. “How can you run a business when you’re subcontracting work out, and claim to not know they’re being paid incorrectly? They’re gonna try to wipe their hands of it.”

*In cities across Australia cleaners are asking employers to sign new Clean Start Agreements. These agreements include living wage increases and enhanced job security as well as vital reforms that will put an end to exploitative subcontracting.


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