Industry Leaders Forum: Mark Piwkowski, Quayclean

Mark Piwkowski, CEO, Quayclean

How was 2021 for Quayclean? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

The Delta virus made 2021 another challenging year, perhaps more challenging than 2020. Regardless, we managed a number of great achievements.

With major public venues closed because of lockdowns, customers in government services, healthcare, aged care, and education all provided buffers for our workforce to continue working.

We were very proud of more than 400 team members working 24/7 at the Sydney Royal Easter Show where over 800,000 attendees visited the Sydney Showgrounds site over the 12-day event.

It was the world’s biggest event in the first half of 2021 and the company’s single-biggest event in consecutive days at one location since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Show organisers acknowledged the precinct has never been as clean. This was awesome feedback for the dedication shown by all our staff.

Our challenge remains an Australia-wide problem to attract and retain staff. All companies in the services industry are rebuilding a workforce that does not exist with the demand and competition for labour to remain high for the foreseeable future.

Is there an achievement that you’re particularly proud of from the past 12 months?

The awesome dedication of our team whose commitment and dedication are unwavering. It never ceases to amaze me, and we applaud them and thank them.

We also unveiled a new contemporary and sophisticated brand identity which was specifically designed to reflect the company’s growth and versatility as we enter a new, exciting era of tailored client services.

The bold, clean, and vibrant brand marks a new chapter of development as we move towards a full range of expertise and skills highlighted in our new, emotive “Experience More.” tagline.

Lastly, the creation of the Quay Academy has established deep positive cultural behaviors within our young developing leaders and workforce with many of the benefits already being realised.

What will be the immediate focus for Quayclean in 2022?

Workforce attraction, retention, and development will continue to be a heavy focus for the months ahead. The re-opening of the borders is welcome news, but it cannot come soon enough.

Waste management, hygiene and sustainability services are natural additions to complement existing services. Additionally, the career development of our leaders to promote succession from within the organisation will continue to dominate our thinking.

What are the major opportunities you foresee for Quayclean in 2022?

With the vaccination rates climbing and borders re-opening, more major events such as sport, festivals and tourism sites will allow patrons to return to these public locations.

Increasingly, we see customers, particularly in the education sector, looking to outsource cleaning, hygiene, and waste management services to industry experts. The COVID pandemic has taught the market that cleaning is a key frontline service, with a need for consistent, high standards of service.

What opportunities and challenges do you see for the wider market in 2022?

The outcomes from the Climate Summit in Glasgow must drive behaviours in organisations, and the industry must respond with our own solutions and actions to be a carbon neutral service.

The industry must embrace environmentally improved waste management and sustainability services educating customers and staff to the need for action and establish leading edge sustainability systems. Chemical free sanitisation and cleaning products is easy low hanging fruit to embrace.

What is one issue you would like to see urgently addressed?

The significant labour shortages across the cleaning industry, and country generally, because of the few overseas students entering the country must be addressed.

The current limits on student visa holders working hours must change. Student visa holders comprise upwards of 30 per cent of cleaning workers yet the Federal Government limits their working hours to 20 hours per week.

Students visa holders can work up to 40 hours per week in tourism, hospitality, aged care, disability, and other health related industries.

The industry therefore faces a critical growing shortage of labour as student visa holders are leaving the industry to accept employment in sectors where they are lawfully permitted to work double the hours or are forced to move to regional locations for the purposes of achieving residency.

It is on this basis that we believe strongly that temporary visa holders currently residing in Australia should be made permanent residents and allowed to work at their chosen location.

Looking forward to 2022, what advice would you give to fellow industry leaders?

Be firm on the true costs of cleaning and resist pressures to undervalue cleaning services. More often, procurement managers are driven by price and not on the quality of the services provided.

We are coming out of a major pandemic and, as an industry, we need to continue to keep our fellow Australian safe by providing quality, frontline cleaning services.

This article first appeared in the January/February issue of INCLEAN magazine. 

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