As part of Repeal Day on 23 March 2014, the Federal Government announced that it would cease a number of regulatory arrangements that are administered by the Department of Employment and apply to Australian Government procurements. One of these changes is the abolishment of guidelines for cleaners employed on government contracts; which will take effect from 1 July 2014.
According to an article by Bianca Hall in the Sydney Sun Herald, ‘the regulations are a form of collective bargaining introduced by Labor that lift the wages of workers hired by businesses that win government cleaning contracts by $4.53 to $5.93 an hour above the minimum wage. This takes a wage from $664 to $836 for a 38-hour week at level 1, and from $724 to $950 at level 3.’
‘Labor introduced the cleaning services guidelines in 2011 to tackle exploitation of vulnerable workers in contract cleaning. A 2010 Fair Work Ombudsman audit found 40 percent of audited cleaning contractors did not comply with workplace laws. It recovered almost $500,000 for 934 underpaid workers. But, with those changes being scrapped, cleaners on government jobs will again be paid the award.’
The Department of Employment says the changes will remove the different rates of pay in private and government work.
‘Cleaning services providers tendering for government work from 1 July, 2014, will still be required to comply with all relevant workplace laws and the modern awards set by the Fair Work Commission,’ it said.
Building Service Contractors Association of Australia’s (BSCAA) national officer, Barbara Connolly, contacted INCLEAN to comment. “In mid 2013 the BSCAA implemented a strategy to convince the Federal Government to abolish the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines, which effectively mandated Clean Start rates of pay on all Federal Government contracts,” she revealed. “BSCAA has consistently opposed the Guidelines that artificially inflated cleaning costs by forcing Clean Start rates of pay whether contractors had agreed to Clean Start or not.
“BSCAA knows that this will come as enormous news not only to BSCAA members but to non-members as well. From 1 July 2014 contractors will be able to submit tenders based on the Award and on Federal Government cleaning contracts, which is a big step forward for us and a huge win for the industry in its efforts to return to a level playing field,” shared Connolly.
As quoted in Hall’s article, a spokesman for employment minister Eric Abetz said: ”There are very strong legal protections and safeguards for workers in the industry contained in the Fair Work Act 2009 and the modern awards system.
”The Fair Work Ombudsman will further increase its activity to ensure cleaning services workers are aware of and receiving their correct legal entitlements,” the spokesman said. “The fair work principles and cleaning services guidelines had no broad impact on workers in the industry – it simply created inequitable and isolated benefits for a small subset of employees.”
Starting on July 1, the government will also scrap rules that require businesses winning government contracts to declare they comply with the Fair Work Act.