Cleaning contractor 'ripped off students'

INTERNATIONAL students were paid as little as $18 an hour to clean the commonwealth law courts in Melbourne under what a union claimed was a sham contracting arrangement.

The Australian, 26 July 2013

United Voice claims a "climate of fear" pervades Melbourne's office cleaning industry where overseas students are bullied, threatened and routinely underpaid by $12 an hour.

Cleaning company Assetlink used a subcontractor to employ international students as cleaners at the law court building.

United Voice said some part-time employees had been paid $18 an hour for working between 6pm and 10pm, but should have received $24.35 a hour.

Assetlink's national general manager people and culture, Wayne Golbert said, following the union's complaint, the company had decided to end the sub-contracting arrangement and directly employ the students. He said the subcontractor had assured Assetlink the workers had received all their legal entitlements, including correct pay.

"We don't accept they were underpaid," he said.

The union's Victorian secretary, Jess Walsh, said the students missed out on penalties, superannuation, holiday leave, sick leave and other entitlements.

"The workers were missing out on up to $6.35 an hour even before the lack of key entitlements were factored in. The casual rate, which compensates for the lack of these entitlements, is $29.64, so they were effectively underpaid by nearly $12 an hour," she said.

The case was typical of the "ugly underbelly of exploitation" in the cleaning industry.

"Given education is Victoria's biggest export industry, this is a critical issue for Victoria," Ms Walsh said.

International students told the union about a "toxic workplace culture where fear, intimidation and racist abuse were the norm".


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