United Voice launches action against UTAS contractor

Union lodges proceedings with FWC following claims cleaners would be forced to take unpaid leave ahead of Christmas.

United Voice has lodged proceedings with the Fair Work Commission following claims cleaners contracted to University of Tasmania (UTAS) would be forced to take two weeks’ unpaid annual leave in the lead-up to Christmas under a new rostering system.

The university contract, previously held by ISS Facility Services, was awarded to GJK Facilities Services in March.

On Monday United Voice said GJK Facilities Services’ holiday rostering system was an attack on low paid workers earning $23,000 a year, claiming UTAS was “allowing the contractor to claim an unlawful extended ‘shutdown”.

It is understood GJK had planned a 10-week rostering system ahead of Christmas in which all staff must take four weeks of annual leave, however, due to the contract change staff would have only accrued two weeks, therefore resulting in two weeks to be unpaid.

GJK Facility Services CEO Steve Taylor said claims staff will lose pay over the Christmas period is incorrect, stating UTAS plans to reduce activity for 10-12 weeks over the summer holiday period and completely shut down for one of these weeks.

“Accordingly, GJK Facility Services, in accordance with the relevant Award, will require our cleaners to each take up to four weeks of leave over this period.

“We are mindful of the wellbeing of our employees and have put a proposal to United Voice that would ensure that no employee will go unpaid over this period,” Taylor said.

United Voice rejects offer 

United Voice has since rejected GJK Facility Services’ proposal, which it says was to pay the current leave but deduct the time accrued from future leave, claiming the offer “is still not in line with UTAS’ shut down protocol.”

“The UTAS cleaners will be in the same situation about unpaid work weeks the following year, the problem the union and members are fighting hasn’t gone away, it just postpones the issue for 12 months. It is still unacceptable. The GJK offer is still not in line with UTAS shut down protocol,” a spokesperson told INCLEAN.

“United Voice is now going to Fair Work Commission on this issue, paperwork has been lodged with FWC.”

United Voice also launched an online petition to raise further awareness, and on Monday distributed Christmas cards at UTAS Newnham Campus in Launceston, encouraging the public to contact management to ensure cleaners did not lose pay.

A spokesperson for UTAS said GJK manages the employment of its staff, including staffing levels and leave entitlements.

“The University of Tasmania has contracted for cleaning services for over 20 years. GJK Facility Services secured the contract early this year following a competitive tender process.”

In March at the time of the contract change United Voice petitioned the contract had resulted in more than nine cleaners losing their jobs under GJK Facility Services.

In August the union launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for five former cleaners the union claimed had lost their jobs following the change of contract.

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