Adelaide cleaning firm breaches Fair Work Act

Cleaning operator found guilty of contravening Fair Work Act after failing to offer employment to staff following contract change.

A South Australian commercial cleaning and facility services provider has been found guilty of  breaching the Fair Work Act, after failing to offer employment to existing staff following a contract change in 2016.

Academy Services was awarded the cleaning contract for Red Cross sites in Adelaide’s CBD in June 2016. The contract, which was to commence from August 2016, had previously been held by ISS Facility Services.

The South Australia-based service provider reportedly informed staff previously employed by ISS in July that they had been unsuccessful in obtaining cleaning positions following the change of contract.

Cleaners’ union United Voice alleged that in failing to offer employment to any of the ISS employees prior to the change of contract, Academy Services was in breach of clause of the Clean Start collective agreement, an initiative launched by United Voice in 2006.

United Voice SA acting branch secretary David Gray said the ruling is an important win for job security in the cleaning industry.

“Insecurity of employment is a reality for thousands of workers in property services such as cleaning,” Gray said, adding there are no such provisions in the Cleaning Award or the Fair Work Act.

“Academy [Services] had originally agreed to the job security provisions in the agreement in 2008, and then when the time came to honour them, attempted to argue that they were unlawful. This decision confirms that requiring a new contractor to offer work to the employees of the outgoing contractor is an allowable matter.”

Academy Services general manager John Hoffman told Inclean the company is committed to ensuring it complies with all facets of the Fair Work Act.

“Academy acknowledges the decision handed down last Friday. Whilst disappointed with the outcome, Academy is committed to ensuring that we comply with all facets of the Fair Work Act, including all aspects of the award and collective agreements. We are dedicated to embracing positive change within our industry.”

In his ruling, Judge Heffernan observed the cleaning sector is an industry in which there is a high turnover of contracts and, as a result, security of employment for persons employed for cleaners has historically been problematic.

He said the Clean Start Agreement was designed to address this by providing greater security of employment for all cleaners employed by a contractor which was a signatory to an agreement.

“The respondent [Academy Services] and other signatories to agreements were aware of this object by virtue of the campaign.”

Heffernan rejected Academy Services’ submission that preference was given to the ISS employees by inviting them to apply for employment and then interviewing them.

“I am not satisfied that inviting the workers to apply for employment and interviewing them is sufficient to have given them preference. None of them was offered employment.”

Heffernan said the jobs at the relevant sites were given to franchisees of the Academy Services with respect to whom Academy Services did not bear the costs associated with employees.

Heffernan concluded that the matter should be adjourned for submissions as to compensation and penalty.

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