The campaign to end rampant exploitation of workers in Melbourne’s office cleaning industry scored a big victory when major cleaning company the Glad Group handed over work records confirming its use of subcontractors at 10 of 11 worksites under investigation.
United Voice investigations show subcontractors to companies like Glad are responsible for entrenched exploitation and underpayment of cleaners, many of them international students. In supplying the records in late November Glad revealed the names of several subcontracting companies, opening new avenues of inquiry into under-payment of cleaners.
Glad was forced to release the records after the union applied to the Fair Work Commission for their production. United Voice state secretary Jess Walsh said the papers handed over by Glad confirmed the company’s repeated use of subcontractors on a bigger scale than had been known.
“Every time we find more detail about subcontracting it proves to be even worse than we previously thought. Obtaining this material is a big step forward for cleaners who are struggling against exploitation and rip-offs,” said Walsh.
“It shows that at almost every Glad serviced building in Melbourne techniques are being used that can result in under payments to cleaners of up to $15,000 a year.
“We know that subcontracting is used to employ vulnerable workers on cut rate pay and illegal conditions. We want companies like Glad to commit to eliminate the practice by signing our Clean Start agreement, and we want these dodgy subcontractors to make good the money they owe to the people they have exploited.”
Cleaners and their supporters protested outside 90 Collins Street following the disclosure in the documents that subcontracting has continued there for months. The building, which houses the British consulate general, was not previously known as a subcontracting site.
United Voice sought the records after a series of raids in October uncovered systemic under-payment of wages and “short shifting” by subcontractors engaged by Glad. The raids also resulted in allegations that Glad had hidden records from union investigators.
The application for access to the hidden files was listed with the FWC for hearing in early November. The hearing was adjourned after the Glad Group agreed to hand over the material.
Union investigators will now target the subcontracting companies to determine the extent of under-payment of wages to cleaners. The investigators will seek orders from the FWC to gain access to the subcontractor’s records.
The records handed over today are just the first installment, even though they show the use of subcontractors at almost every Glad site. Records relating to at least two more sites are expected to be supplied to the union next week.
The October raids followed the release of ‘A Dirty Business: The exploitation of international students in Melbourne’s office cleaning industry’. That report, which exposed widespread sub-contracting and rip-offs, bullying and a climate of fear, resulted from a seven month union investigation.