A report launched earlier this month by the Uniting Church revealed that cleaners in Australia are among the lowest paid workers in the country. The report, titled Cutting Corners, published data based on nearly 400 interviews with shopping centre cleaners.
The research found that most full time cleaners earn just $16.57 per hour, which leaves a family of two adults and two children below the poverty line. In an effort to make ends meet, some cleaners claimed to have cut back on basic grocery items and others are working two jobs, nightshifts and weekends. Seventy-eight per cent of respondents believe holidays are an unaffordable luxury.
The report showed that families were hit the hardest. More that half of all cleaners questioned said they have trouble paying for their children’s expenses such as school books and uniforms, and a staggering 78 per cent with dependants confirmed they have difficulty paying bills and debts. Nearly 60 per cent said they could not afford their family’s medical expenses, to pay the rent or mortgage or meet their transport costs.
Louise Tarrant, national secretary of the cleaners’ union United Voice said the report gave a clear indication of the injustices occurring for cleaners in our country.
“The big shopping malls that cleaners clean are a perfect analogy of our broader society. You have people who can afford to buy luxury items; while, at the same time, the people who clean these centres can’t even afford to fill their shopping trolleys.”
More than half of the cleaners questioned showed high stress levels due to excessive workloads; limited job security; low wage, not being paid for overtime and being forced to work without efficient chemicals, time or equipment.
“Importantly, cleaners say this crisis is also affecting their work: they can’t do their jobs properly, which is a real concern for the cleanliness and hygiene in our big shopping malls,” Tarrant added.
The ongoing stress has adverse health effects and many respondents claimed to have experienced injury, depression, nervous breakdown and heart disease.
Although the report was specific to Victoria, similar occurrences are happening in many shopping centres across the country.
Cutting Corners was commissioned by United Voice and produced as part of the Uniting Church’s Creative Ministries Network.