Contracted cleaners at the (federal) Department of Immigration and Border Protection are said to be receiving $2 an hour less, even though Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Employment Minister Eric Abetz said this would not happen. That’s according to a report in The Canberra Times‘ (2 March 2015) by Phillip Thomson.
‘The annual wages of cleaners who work at the department’s buildings in Canberra will this year be reduced by thousands of dollars, according to pay slips obtained by Fairfax Media,’ said The Canberra Times.
‘The wage reduction has exposed the cleaners to an increasingly insecure industry in the nation’s expensive capital.’
The report noted that nine months ago Prime Minister Abbott and Senator Abetz stated the scrapping of the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines affecting some cleaners would not hurt the pay packets of workers.
“I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that no cleaner’s pay is reduced,” Prime Minister Abbott said in (Federal Parliament) question time last June.
The Canberra Times pointed out that during the same response Prime Minister Abbott also said no one could be paid below the award wage, despite protests from opposition leader Bill Shorten that he had not asked about the award wage.
On the same day Senator Abetz issued a press release which said, ‘No cleaner will have their wages reduced as a result of the guidelines ceasing to apply.’
The Guidelines, abolished during the Abbott government’s first omnibus red tape repeal day, ensured a floor price for outsourced cleaners working in government buildings and guaranteed future pay rises.
A letter sent by the Department’s cleaners to Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said the pay cut ‘may not seem like much to you but when you don’t earn a lot this really does make a big difference.
‘Due to the uncertainty around the removal of the guidelines, the tender of the contractor we work for was based on three different pay rates.
‘Unfortunately the department chose to accept a reduced pay rate which the contractor has now passed on to us.’
The cleaners asked Minister Dutton to reverse the decision and said “until very recently” they were paid enough to cover rent and other bills on time.
United Voice spokeswoman Lyndal Ryan said the government was either ignorant of the facts or it had lied and that companies were essentially forced into reducing wages without the guidelines.
“We know contracting produces a race to the bottom,” Ryan said.
“If this company (with the Immigration contract) didn’t do this, another company would have come in and reduced wages.
“This will keep happening.”