INCLEAN Magazine - September/October 2018

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Cleaning Accountability

Framework update Newly appointed CEO of the Cleaning Accountability Framework Poonam Datar provides an update on the voluntary certificate scheme. Examples of the exploitation of cleaners are unfortunately plentiful. Through sham contracting, failure to pay award rates and failure to pay redundancy payments, the cleaning industry has a sorry recent history of failing to meet its obligations to workers. In one recent case involving a major cleaning company the Federal Court ruled the company failed to meet obligations to 21 cleaning and security workers it sacked after losing a long-term contract with a major Queensland shopping centre. The lengthy court case, penalty, adverse publicity and increased general public awareness about wage theft also demonstrate the regulatory and reputational risks facing cleaning companies. But there is a better way for companies to meet obligations to their boards, workers and the community, which does not come at a cost to reputations and bottom lines. The Cleaning Accountability Framework (CAF) is an independent multi-stakeholder association that aims to improve labour standards in the cleaning industry.

CAF: how it works CAF brings together building owners, cleaning companies, facility managers and cleaners to put a stop to harmful business practices. We do this through a voluntary certification scheme that assesses buildings to a three, four or five star standard. In practice, this involves a property owner nominating a site for CAF certification who will then work with all participants of the cleaning supply chain on that site to demonstrate compliance with CAF standards. Most importantly, this process puts cleaners at the heart of the process. Through annual meetings and the nomination of a CAF representative at work sites, we encourage cleaners to talk about their experience at work and monitor ongoing compliance with the CAF standard. This methodology is hardly a radical step: it allows workers to be the early warning system for companies and their boards that issues may be arising that need attention, avoiding reputational or regulatory fallout. CAF has an independent chair and is governed by a steering committee. Committee members include cleaning contractors, facility managers, building owners, the Fair Work Ombudsman, United Voice and the University of Technology Sydney, with the long-time support of AustralianSuper. CAF commenced a pilot of the three star standard in 2017. As a result we have developed a number of tools and guidance regarding responsible tendering practices, and implemented a number of learnings as part of an ongoing review of our standard. Five sites have completed the pilot and have certified buildings in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. This means they have met key criteria covering: • Labour (pricing, wage rates, job security, the right to work) • Tax and superannuation • Record keeping including pay slips 14 INCLEAN September/October 2018

• Workplace health and safety • Financial viability • Worker engagement • Responsible subcontracting

CAF combats modern slavery Another example of how CAF can assist companies detect risks relates to legislation introduced in the Lower House of Parliament regarding obligations to report on modern slavery. Through increased supply chain transparency as part of the CAF certification scheme, companies will be better placed to meet their upcoming legal requirements as part of new Modern Slavery legislation. The Bill targets exploitative practices such as forced labour, and requires certain entities operating in Australia to investigate and report on whether such practices are taking place in their supply chains. According to the Walk Free Foundation, industrial cleaning is one of the most vulnerable industries where workers are at risk of modern slavery. CAF’s certification scheme takes a whole of supply chain approach, and includes for example an assessment on a business’s policies and procedures regarding right to work in Australia. The aim of this is to both mitigate risk on the part of the business that all workers are meeting their legal visa requirements, and support cleaners to fully understand their workplace rights and entitlements.

Technology tests CAF Researchers from the Centre for Business and Social Innovation at the University of Technology Sydney have had a thought-provoking start to their ARC project that tests the effectiveness of CAF. The key focus for the research team in the first few months of the project has been the worker engagement app. Engagement with stakeholders and app developers has seen the app evolve beyond collecting compliance information from workers, to also include elements that enable education and social connection. As CAF moves forward with its pilot sites, the research team is preparing to engage with these sites to ensure their analysis of the pilot results truly captures the experience and effectiveness of the CAF process.

What’s next? 2018 is shaping up to be a big year for CAF. We plan to finalise our pilot of the three star standard and launch the results before the end of the year. Our membership covers a wide range of stakeholders including industry, government, super funds and not-for-profits, and the interest is only growing. CAF’s success relies on its multi-stakeholder representation and broad market uptake of the certification scheme leading to a demonstrable improvement in the working lives of cleaners.

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