House debates

Monday, 24 June 2013

Private Members' Business

International Cleaners Day

8:38 pm

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) acknowledges that 15 June is International Cleaners Day, recognising cleaners all over the world for their work and efforts;

(2) recognises the:

(a) importance and significance of the work of cleaners; and

(b) important contributions of cleaners across the Australian community;

(3) supports the call for a fair go for cleaners and recognises that cleaners are some of the lowest paid workers in Australia; and

(4) congratulates all cleaners for their achievements and the work that they have done in advocating for the rights of fellow cleaners through the Clean Start campaign.

It gives me great pleasure to move this motion recognising International Cleaners Day, which is celebrated all around the world on 15 June, which was a week or so ago. This day recognises cleaners all over the world for their work, for their efforts. This motion recognises the importance and significance of the work done by cleaners and the important contribution of cleaners across the Australian community and supports a call for a fair go for cleaners. It recognises that cleaners are some of the lowest paid workers in Australia.

I would like to congratulate all cleaners for their achievements and for the wonderful work that they do. They have worked very hard in advocating for the rights of fellow cleaners throughout the Clean Start campaign, which has been going for a number of years. I also congratulate them for doing such a wonderful job when we are tucked away in our beds here in Canberra and they are in our offices cleaning. I pay tribute to Maria, who has been here for 25 years, since the opening of this parliament. I believe Maria was at the 25-year celebrations today for this wonderful building. Of course, we see the results when we come in in the morning. Everything is clean, our bins are emptied, our bathrooms are washed, and this is all done through the hard work of, as I said, some of our lowest paid workers in Australia.

All across Australia, including in my electorate, cleaners have joined the United Voice Clean Start campaign in an effort to provide better working conditions and better wages for workers employed in the cleaning industry. The success of this campaign led to the Clean Start agreement, which has delivered improving standards for thousands of cleaners and, most importantly, improved safety and conditions across workplaces all around Australia. The original agreement is near its expiry date, and even under the current agreement many employers simply ignore the rights of their employees. We have seen sham contracting and cash-in-hand payments by some employers within the industry, and that threatens the standards set up by the Clean Start agreement.

Undercutting wages, unreasonable workloads and unsafe work environments present serious problems for many workers in the cleaning industry. Add to all of this the fact that it has been almost a whole year since cleaners have had a wage increase and that we know that, if the coalition are elected to government, 3.5 million workers, including thousands of cleaners, will have taxes on their superannuation contributions increased. I cannot begin to imagine the stress faced by these cleaners right across Australia when they do not know where their wages might be and whether they will have a safe workplace or even a job going forward. The industry is also renowned for often having poor job security, and this is evidenced by the collapse of one of Australia's largest cleaning companies only recently.

I am very proud to speak on this motion, because my mother was a cleaner and I saw firsthand the hours that she worked. We would have dinner at night at home, and she was always absent from the dinner table. She worked extremely hard and, as I said, I am very proud of her. Through cleaning, she brought me and my sister up in a very good way, I think.

Many in this place and around Australia will remember that only recently Swan Services collapsed, leaving thousands of workers without a job. Some Swan workers will be able to claim some entitlements through the Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme administered by the federal government but, in a rather tragic circumstance, the scheme applies only to Australian citizens or permanent residents. Many of the people that are owed money are overseas international students who still have not been paid.

I would also like to acknowledge the important contribution of Wolfgang, the cleaner in my own electorate office in Glenelg in Hindmarsh—who comes in day and night, day after day, to clean the electorate office—and, of course, all the cleaners here in Parliament House, who ensure that our offices are kept spotless and operational at all times. We have so many who work so hard, but there are some good news stories. National Cleaning Services Australia, City Group, Mirrors Cleaning, Rose Cleaning Service and Phillips Cleaning Service, all based right here in Canberra, have decided to lead the way towards maintenance and improvement of standards of cleaning, and they ought to be congratulated as well for the stand that they are taking. Other companies, local and national, should be urged to take the lead.


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