Union alleges unfair treatment of UC cleaners

CLEANERS who work at the University of Canberra were unfairly and illegally transferred to casual employment when a new company took over the university’s cleaning contract, according to their union, United Voice.

United Voice ACT Branch Secretary Lyndal Ryan.

United Voice ACT Branch secretary Lyndal Ryan.

United Voice ACT Branch secretary Lyndal Ryan says “life has been a nightmare” for the cleaners at the University since a new company took over property maintenance at UC in July.

The union is taking action in the Federal Court against two sister companies who employ them, alleging the relevant award was breached when they were told they would be transferred to causal status and they would technically be employed by a labour hire company, which is owned by the same umbrella company as UC’s cleaning contractor.

The cleaning company, Programmed Facility Management (PFM), and the labour hire company, Programmed Integrated Workforce (PIW), are both wholly owned by Programmed Maintenance Limited.

“Cleaners who had been permanent employees of the University’s previous cleaning company were informed by PFM they would only be offered casual employment and that they were to be employed by PIW,” Ms Ryan says.

“And if that wasn’t bad enough, PIW sacked a third of the cleaners at the University. All of this was done without any consultation with the employees or the union.”

Ms Ryan says the union has “repeatedly asked University management to investigate the situation” and that after three months the cleaners have still received no response.

“Frankly, it’s not good enough,” she says.  “We expect better from cleaning contractors and from the University.”

The union says that all but one of the 22 cleaners employed at the University are from non-English speaking backgrounds, many being international students.

United Voice alleges that the two companies, acting in concert, engaged the cleaners as casuals in breach of Cleaning Services Award 2010.

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