In a mid-June statement, he pointed to his organisation’s 2011 research that revealed, ‘Unjust contracts leave workers inadequate time and resources to clean properly. There are larger spaces to clean over shorter periods of time – with less people available to do the work. Other research undertaken for United Voice shows that hygiene levels in shopping centres are below standard – which can cause serious health problems for workers and customers.
‘Almost half the cleaners in the survey felt stressed about their high workload, and research shows that workplace stress is linked to such negative social outcomes as marriage breakdown. One cleaner reported in the UnitingCare research that stress had led him to “leave the industry as this was causing a lot of issues with my wife, which led to my wife having left me and now I have three children in my care and I am unable to work”.’
McMullen added the SCCA had stated that rigorous action has taken place to ensure that employees of shopping centre contractors are treated fairly and decently through the adoption of a ‘Code of Conduct for Fair Service Provision in Shopping Centres’. ‘However, all credible corporate responsibility frameworks support freedom of association and the ability of employees to collectively bargain. Unfortunately the Code does not commit to these internationally recognised basic human rights standards.
‘Collective bargaining at the workplace level is the key way employees can enter into dialogue about better pay and conditions. Thankfully no one is arguing against good legal minimum conditions. The Shopping Centre Council supports cleaner contractors getting the minimum legal Award wage. However, the Council does not appear to support this basic human right of collective bargaining for its shopping centre cleaners.’
This is a problem, noted McMullen, because the UnitingCare research points out the minimum legal wage levels are not sufficient. Under the Cleaning Services Award, the pay for a ‘level one’ cleaning service employee (the level at which most shopping centre cleaners are employed), is below the poverty line for one-income families with two or more children.
‘Shopping centre cleaners have to cope with stressful increasing workloads and there is a struggle for many to put food on the family table. We believe that better dialogue is needed. This will assist discussion on pay, workload management and a good standard of cleanliness being able to be maintained. We welcome the suggestion by the Shopping Centre Council that the Cleaning Services Award should be critiqued in its’ review next year; however, the review won’t look at wages. Action on pay and conditions is required now, at the workplace level,’ McMullen emphasised.