No, yes, no … the cleaners’ pay rort

There were so many of these side deals to use taxpayer funds to push up unionised workers’ pay that the Gillard government tried (and sometimes succeeded) it is hard to keep up: there was the age care fund for unionised workers; there was the deal for some child care workers (of the favoured centres which were given the heads-up to apply early); and then there was this one about cleaners of Commonwealth buildings (there were only about 20 contracts, evidently, signed under the ‘guidelines’.

So that’s fair: some cleaners get inflated above-market pay, courtesy of the Australian taxpayer, and all other cleaners do not. What’s not to love about that?

(There were lots of other scams of a similar variety eg. the Road Transport Remuneration Tribunal, the Better Shipping ‘reforms’, the support of the substantial increase in pay under the Social and Community Services Award.  Cats can probably nominate some more.  It will take some time for the Abbott government to get to the bottom of them all; not all are reversible.)

Here’s the story: I am not sure Abetz has won; I guess we will see.

EMPLOYMENT Minister Eric Abetz has taken extraordinary action to bypass the Senate and enforce pay cuts on commonwealth cleaners.

Labor successfully moved amendments yesterday in the upper house that were aimed at forcing the government to back down on plans to scrap changes to the guidelines that control the pay rates of cleaners.

Labor and unions said the amendments were a victory for commonwealth cleaners who would have had their minimum rate of pay cut from $22.02 an hour to $17.49 an hour.

But a spokesman for Senator Abetz revealed last night that the minister “signed an instrument revoking the guidelines” before the bill passed the parliament yesterday.

“This reflects the government’s commitment to revoking the cleaning services guidelines by July 1,’’ the spokesman said.

If the minister’s action results in the scrapping of the guidelines, as Senator Abetz claimed, unions and the ALP are likely to seek legal advice on the move, and whether it can be subject to challenge.

Labor’s amendments sought the continuation of the guidelines but the government believes it has been able to “gazump” the opposition by having the guidelines scrapped before the bill takes effect.

The government’s move, if it stands, will result in significant pay cuts for commonwealth cleaners

In March, it was revealed the government wanted to abolish the guidelines as part of the Coalition’s “red tape” repeal day.

The guidelines were introduced by the former government and increase the wages of workers hired by businesses that have government contracts. If they are no longer in operation, unions say commonwealth cleaners face a 20 per cent pay cut.

David O’Byrne, acting national secretary of United Voice, said the guidelines prevented the exploitation of commonwealth cleaners.

“Far from being counterproductive, the guidelines ensure companies that provide cleaning services for the government must ensure their cleaners are properly paid and have decent working conditions,” he said.

“The guidelines were established because of the well-documented shocking record of employers in this industry.”

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14 Responses to No, yes, no … the cleaners’ pay rort

  1. stackja

    David O’Byrne, acting national secretary of United Voice, said the guidelines prevented the exploitation of commonwealth cleaners.
    “Far from being counterproductive, the guidelines ensure companies that provide cleaning services for the government must ensure their cleaners are properly paid and have decent working conditions,” he said.

    What does properly paid mean and what does have decent working conditions mean?

  2. Baldrick

    Government, as well as Unions, should get out of the idea of artificially influencing pay rates. Leave it to the private sector to establish the base rate. If your work performance is exceptional, then you’ll be paid more. If not, then you’ll earn what your work performance deserves.

  3. Gavin R Putland

    I didn’t know it was a libertarian virtue to make executive decrees that bypass Parliament. I guess it depends on who’s getting shafted by whom.

  4. H B Bear

    Prime Minister Gillard, “Never has so much been owed to so many by so few.” Union owned, lock stock and barrel.

  5. There were so many of these side deals to use taxpayer funds to push up unionised workers’ pay that the Gillard government tried (and sometimes succeeded) it is hard to keep up

    and we have a lazy Coalition government that is uninterested in winding back the Gillard legacy. They want a steady-as-she-goes, keep-everything-pretty-much-as-we-found-it approach, with a few well known exceptions.

  6. johanna

    Gavin, the guidelines were created by the then Minister and are able to be revoked by the now Minister. Nothing shonky or untoward, except in the view of Fauxfacts.

  7. AP

    How about they repeal the frigging Superstream laws, which mean every SMSF has to obtain an “electronic address”, costing around $40 per annum, and much more for employers who have to implement completely new payment systems. Electronic address? “That’s easy”, I hear you say. “That’s why Al Gore invented email, and there are yonks of free email providers around”. Well, no, it can’t be any old electronic address, it has to be one of a select handful of “providers”, who include Australia Post. These government-appointed rent seekers are going to charge me at least $40 per annum to do essentially what hotmail and gmail do for free. My SMSF will get twelve emails per year with my superannuation pay advice from my employer meaning each email will have cost around $3.30.

    When I wrote to Mathius Corrman about this, all I got was the usual Liberal politician arsehole response: a condescending reply directing me to some inane website.

    The more I correspond with Liberal politicians the more I hate them.

  8. AP

    Interestingly, Malcolm has been the only one so far who didn’t come across as a consescending twat. Very strange, given other accounts of him.

    It was only a one-line response though – but it was personal.

    Condescending twats so far:

    Everyone on the Timber Import mailout list
    Paul Fletcher (my former local member)
    Barry OFarrell (my former local member)
    Prue Goward
    Mathius Corman
    Joe Hockey
    Tony Abbott

    Perhaps they just need better staffers who don’t have such “healthy” opinions of themselves.

  9. Nato

    Baldrick make the point I wanted to, as well. “, as well as Unions,” is the superfluous extension to what was basically the point that I was going to make in my comment to Ms Sloan’s post. What is the difference between a good labourer (cleaners in this case) and a time-waster? Does management care? A lot. No.

    I would add that my impression of this example is complicated by a belief that the 6 figure public servants consider themselves to be one-of-us with the award-level workers. To cut the pay of those whose work actually affects the real environment makes the ‘virtual work’ of public servants seem even sillier. OT I went to Canberra a few weeks ago. I’m not sure that the cleaners deserve a pay cut, but the filth I was confronted with in the bars certainly do. I’m an articulate hi-viz & steelcaps kind of guy. I climbed back into the 3-piece because she wanted me to look pretty on her arm doing the circuit. I was accepted well enough to hear in-jokes about my type that just reinforced a contempt for adminstrators and even more for government.

  10. Disillusioned

    Pity the same can’t be done for the poli and PS wages. A touch of the real world might actually make them work a bit harder to improve the countries economic climate. If we are really in an era of austerity then the political/PS class should be the first victims as it happened on their watch.

  11. Dianne

    & let’s not forget my very favourites:

    The indigenous owned businesses that are preferenced over other businesses for government contracts, who then fly in workers from “down south” at exorbitant rates to do the job. Fuck ups by these firms are met with “variations” to the contract & all the while the tax collected from other businesses to pay for these firms to pay for this largesse are going out of business.

    Then, of course you have the government entities that are competing against private business for “self generated income”. The latest example, the prison in Alice is using more industrial gas than the 2 biggest engineering firms put together.

    What is wrong with this picture & how come governments are such morons?

  12. Des Deskperson

    My experience of public service contract cleaners is that they are slap-dash and surly, barging into meetings and thrusting their vacuum cleaners into the middle of discussions. No-one wants to take the issue up because everyone feels guilty about the ‘poor’ cleaners.

    I don’t know if productivity or client focus has improved since the 2012 pay rise, and I doubt if anyone else does. Access to employment as a cleaner in Canberra is reputedly dominated by certain ethnic groups and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of this. Maybe it’s because Anglo-Celts don’t want to do the dirty work, but a ‘progressives’ ought surely to be concerned that cleaning contractors comply with the anti-discrimination provisions in the Fair Work Act, which I have always understood to be written into all government contracts.

  13. It’s simple. If you are a cleaner and don’t like what you’re getting paid, start your own business, or find someone who will pay you more. The only justification for mandated wages is in mandated monopolies. The solution of course is to remove the monopoly mandate. Why do people find such concepts so difficult to comprehend?

  14. .

    When I wrote to Mathius Corrman about this, all I got was the usual Liberal politician arsehole response: a condescending reply directing me to some inane website.

    You know what to do:

    http://www.ldp.org.au/index.php/get-involved/join

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