Money Woolworths contractors underpaying cleaners in 'serious exploitation' across Tasmania, inquiry finds

19:54  14 february  2018
19:54  14 february  2018 Source:   msn.com

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A Fair Work inquiry finds Woolworths supermarket contractors are underpaying and exploiting Tasmanian cleaners , paying some as little as per hour.

A Fair Work Ombudsman inquiry into Tasmanian supermarket cleaners has found “ serious exploitation ” of workers and “abysmal” record keeping. The regulator recommends Woolworths commit to back-paying cleaners who have not had their underpayments rectified by their contractor .

Ninety per cent of Woolworths' Tasmanian supermarket sites were not complying with workplace laws.© AAP Image Ninety per cent of Woolworths' Tasmanian supermarket sites were not complying with workplace laws. A Fair Work Ombudsman inquiry into Tasmanian supermarket cleaners has found "serious exploitation" of workers and "abysmal" record keeping.

The inquiry started in late 2014 in response to intelligence the ombudsman received that supermarket cleaners in the state were being significantly underpaid.

The inquiry looked at contracting arrangements for cleaners at all 31 Woolworths stores, seven Coles stores and 17 IGA stores.

The inquiry found cleaning contractors at 90 per cent of Woolworths' Tasmanian supermarket sites were not complying with workplace laws.

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" Woolworths contractors underpaying cleaners in ' serious exploitation ' across Tasmania , inquiry finds ", 14 February 2018. A Fair Work Ombudsman inquiry into supermarket cleaners found " serious exploitation " of workers and "abysmal" record keeping.

“Our Inquiry found deficiencies in Woolworths ’ governance arrangements with regard to its procurement and oversight of cleaning contracts, resulting in serious exploitation occurring at multiple levels of its cleaning supply chain,” Ms James said. “We uncovered breaches across 90 per

There were cases of contractors paying cleaners as little as $7 per hour for training and $14 per hour for work.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said that was "well below their legal entitlements".

"Our inquiry found deficiencies in Woolworths' governance arrangements with regard to its procurement and oversight of cleaning contracts, resulting in serious exploitation occurring at multiple levels of its cleaning supply chain," Ms James said.

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A Fair Work inquiry finds Woolworths supermarket contractors are underpaying and exploiting Tasmanian cleaners , paying some as little as per hour.

“Our Inquiry found deficiencies in Woolworths ’ governance arrangements with regard to its procurement and oversight of cleaning contracts, resulting in serious exploitation “We uncovered breaches across 90 per cent of Woolworths ’ Tasmanian sites, including cases of contractors

Cleaners were often paid in unrecorded cash-in-hand payments with no payslips provided.

"Overall, record-keeping by contractors engaged at Woolworths' sites was abysmal," she said.

"At 84 per cent of sites workplace records were inaccurate or not kept at all."

The inquiry has so far identified more than $64,000 in underpayments, with more than $21,000 of those now rectified.

Buck stops with Woolworths

Woolworths is the only supermarket in the state which outsources its cleaners.

Ms James said Woolworths was still morally and ethically responsible for how cleaners were treated.

"We didn't find evidence that Woolworths knew about the extent of what was going on," she said.

"These workers are essential to the supermarket's business and yet Woolworths, and this is not an unfamiliar story, many companies have cleaners that they don't see and they don't think about, other than to check that they're cleaning properly, they're always very scrupulous about that.

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" Woolworths contractors underpaying cleaners in ' serious exploitation ' across Tasmania , inquiry finds ", 14 February 2018 ▹Read more. Related in-depth areas: Establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia Latest news on modern slavery & forced labour.

“Our inquiry found deficiencies in Woolworths ’ governance arrangements with regard to its procurement and oversight of cleaning contracts, resulting in serious exploitation “We uncovered breaches across 90 per cent of Woolworths ’ Tasmanian sites, including cases of contractors

"Yes they should be responsible for these workers, no matter how many fragmented layers of contracting there are between they and the worker."

An anonymous caller to ABC Radio Hobart said she worked as a cleaner for a contractor five years ago.

She said she did not get paid for three weeks' work and when she called Woolworths it said it was not its problem.

Poor records hampered inquiry

But the ombudsman said poor record keeping, incomplete, inaccurate or false records and a lack of cooperation from vulnerable workers impeded its ability to uncover the true amount of underpayments.

The ombudsman has so far initiated two litigations as a result of the inquiry and has also referred three contractors to the Australian Taxation Office.

Its investigations into a number of businesses that supply cleaning services to Woolworths in Tasmania are continuing.

"Businesses need to step up and be active in their responsibility to ensure that workers in their supply chains are being paid appropriately and treated fairly," Ms James said.

The regulator recommends Woolworths commit to back-paying cleaners who have not had their underpayments rectified by their contractor.

Jess Sanders from United Voice said the problem was not just in supermarkets.

"It's incredibly widespread in Tasmania, no-one is under any illusion that this is something that happens rarely," she said.

"This happens all of the time and we hear it all of the time from a various, wide range of sectors."

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