Cleaning contractors came together in Canberra on Tuesday 3 December at a historic ACT Legislative Assembly ceremony to mark the re-signing of the Clean Start Collective Agreements by 16 cleaning contractors.
‘The first Clean Start Collective Agreement was signed in Canberra in 2008 after a long, hard battle by cleaners for fair pay, better jobs and higher standards in Australia’s crisis-ridden contract cleaning industry,’ stated a United Voice press release. The latest Agreement includes a four percent pay increase and stronger protection against immoral sub-contracting practices.
“Today is a turning point for Australia’s contract cleaning industry,” said Louise Tarrant, national secretary of the cleaners’ union United Voice. “The re-commitment by key contractors to the Clean Start Collective Agreement for a further four years is significant because it consolidates industry reform which was initiated, fought for and won by workers.
“Low paid cleaners came up with the solutions to stop the race to the bottom in their industry. They convinced property owners, tenants and cleaning companies there was a better way – Clean Start – and they have proven it delivers. In the process, cleaners improved their lives and secured higher building maintenance standards for owners and better services for tenants,” added Tarrant.
“We don’t pretend the battle is over or that all shonky contractors have been driven from the industry. This year’s audit of 1,000 cleaning contractors by the Fair Work Ombudsman in response to illegal practices in the industry proves there is more to be done,” she admitted. “But the Agreement makes it harder for these operators and provides protection for cleaners and ethical contractors. We congratulate cleaners and companies at today’s ceremony for their leadership in this essential industry.
“Now it’s time for the rest of the industry to respect their cleaning workforce and get behind the industry leaders today re-affirming the value of Clean Start for everybody. Negotiations are progressing and we look forward to more sign ups. Their choice is clear: be part of the solution or be part of the problem,” Tarrant emphasised.
Canberra cleaner Chris Wagland is a worker positively affected when his supervisor signed the Agreement. “I’ve been a cleaner for 29 years. I work to provide for my three sons and their futures. I take pride in my job and want to be supported to do it properly,” he shared. “Before Clean Start, the industry hit rock bottom. Things were really tough for cleaners like me. We were under more and more pressure. It became impossible to do the job well. That’s when I decided enough was enough.
“What’s changed the most since Clean Start is the attitude. Cleaners have more self-worth and more confidence about what they do. I get more money, which is good, but the job security that goes with it is the most important,” he continued. “My supervisors had their doubts, but they have come on side. They see the benefits of a win-win situation. With Clean Start, contractors can get work at a reasonable price without being undercut by dodgy contractors.
“I’m proud of what we have achieved. We can’t go back. Clean Start is the future for our industry,” said Wagland.