Getting a company to handle general and upholstery cleaning in Perth or anywhere else in Australia is an important step, with many in cleaning companies in the country open for contracting, aware of how much this matters to both corporations and government alike. But these firms are, themselves, businesses, with employees covered by the Fair Work Act of 2009.
National supermarket chain Woolsworth, as ubiquitous as it is throughout Australia, has worked with general and upholstery cleaning in Perth, Sydney, Tasmania, and across the country. So when the company was under investigation by a Fair Works Ombudsman, people took note.
The Fair Works Ombudsman has uncovered something unpleasant, that the Tasmanian branch of Woolsworth had been exploiting cleaners across the state, made possible thanks, in part, to horrible documentation of corporate practices. The inquiry discovered that about 90% of Woolsworth stores in Tasmania were not complying with workplace laws, with some cases of cleaners getting as little as 14$ worth of hourly pay.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James pointed out that this wasn’t even close to legal entitlements. She says that their inquiry discovered that Woolworths Tasmania’s arrangements with regards to its cleaning contracts were deficient, resulting in exploitation happening across levels of its cleaning supply chain. She adds that record keeping by the contractors was nothing sort of spotty; with 84% of the workplace records being inaccurate, if they were documented in the first place.
Woolworths, notably, is the only supermarket chain in Tasmania that outsources its cleaning personnel, but that, according to Ms. James, they still hold a moral and ethical responsibility regarding how the cleaners were treated. She says that the layers between them and the workers they’ve outsourced doesn’t change or affect that fact at all.
Woolworths itself has released a statement on the matter, saying that it would step in to reimburse workers if the contractors would not do so. A spokesperson from the supermarket chain says that they are committed to playing cleaners found to be underpaid for services they provided to the company.
According to Woolsworth, none of the suppliers that were noted in the ombudsman’s report remain associated with the company, and that they would implement changes to their cleaning services in order to prevent another issue like this, including requiring the use of a payroll system and increasing audits.