The Department of Education and Training Victoria has terminated its cleaning contract with Ramos Cleaning Services following an investigation into allegations of non-compliance.
The Department confirmed to INCLEAN it had terminated the contract this month, which was understood to include 18 public schools across Melbourne including Brunswick Secondary College, St Albans Secondary, Belle Vue Primary and Sydenham-Hillside Primary School.
[quote]“Allegations of non-compliance, including those made by United Voice, have been investigated as soon as they have been brought to our attention,” a department spokesperson told INCLEAN.[/quote]
[quote]“Spot audits have been undertaken and whenever the Department has identified issues of misconduct, we have responded and investigated. Under the panel agreement and individual school contracts, both the Department and School councils have the ability to audit cleaning contractors.”[/quote]
[quote]“Schools are required to appoint cleaning contractors approved by the Department’s centralised School Cleaning Panel and to regularly check that cleaners comply with all regulations, including Working With Children Checks.”[/quote]
Ramos Cleaning Services was reportedly facing an investigation following claims of “massive wage theft” in February this year, after Fairfax Media revealed pay slips, time sheets and workplace agreements from the company undercut minimum pay and conditions for cleaners by “as much as $100 a week”. Fairfax also reported employees were missing out on “$5000 a year because they are being denied penalty rates and other entitlements”.
The owner of a Melbourne-based cleaning company in Melbourne who asked not to be named, told INCLEAN non-compliance in Victorian school cleaning contracts has “been an issue for a very long time”, claiming some cleaning businesses with school contracts had not been audited “for more than five years”.
[quote]”The Department has dropped the ball; they seem to have very few staff to keep an eye on cleaning contractors, so dishonest contractors have taken advantage.”[/quote]
The owner also cited the cleaners award [rate] as a contributing factor, and said school councils and principals “need to be told what’s going on” and “should also bear some responsibility for the underpayment of cleaners.”
It comes as United Voice investigates another Melbourne-based cleaning company, Ramzy Cleaning, which is understood to hold 50 Victorian schools, since March.
The union told the ABC workers were being underpaid by more than $14,000 a year through a complicated network of sub-contractors and “sham ABNs”.
Last week United Voice also released findings from its survey that found hundreds of school cleaners working in Victorian state schools are being paid below award wages, with one cleaner being paid just $2.63 per hour cash in hand for her first week of work.
The report, Wage Theft in Victorian Government Schools, which was conducted across 142 schools and surveyed 299 cleaners, revealed 81 per cent of school cleaners are being paid below award wages. One cleaner was found to have been paid just $2.63 per hour cash in hand for her first week of work.
Thirty-two per cent are not being paid for all of their work and nearly one in five workers were working at schools under sham contracting arrangements, employed on ABNs and denied such basic entitlements as sick leave, annual leave and superannuation.
United Voice estimates the total wage theft exceeds $10 million per year across Victoria’s 4000 state school cleaners.