A ruling in the Federal Court today is a landmark victory for long-serving cleaners and security guards who are being callously dumped without redundancy payments.
Even more broadly, the ruling affirms the rights of employees to redundancy payouts when an employer loses a particular contract – underpinning the rights of hundreds of thousands of workers now and into the future.
The full Federal Court ruling confirmed workers in Queensland and Western Australia previously employed by Spotless Group have won the right to be paid their redundancies, despite Spotless trying to use a Fair Work Act loophole to avoid the payouts.
Today the Federal Court rejected an appeal lodged by Spotless after Spotless lost an earlier case launched by United Workers Union’s predecessor in 2018.
The precedent-setting ruling found Spotless should not deny redundancy payments to workers at Sunshine Coast Plaza Shopping Centre and Perth Airport, where the group lost cleaning and security contracts in 2014 and 2015.
Despite holding the shopping centre contract for 14 years and the Perth Airport contract for 12 years, Spotless claimed the job losses after the contract losses were “ordinary and customary turnover of labour” under a Fair Work Act loophole and the workers were not entitled to redundancy payments.
United Workers Union Property Services Director Lyndal Ryan said the ruling in favour of cleaners and security guards meant employers should not deny redundancy payments to employees who lose their jobs because the employer has lost a particular contract.
“This is a huge win for workers. An argument that has been going on for over a decade has finally been put to bed. When people have given years to a job, their loss of work is hardly the ordinary and customary turnover of labour,” she said.
“We have over one hundred members across the country claiming entitlements of $670,000 in similar cases against Spotless and other contractors. This ruling should set a precedent and deliver the financial support these workers are rightfully due.”
She also said the ruling highlighted the need to remove the loophole from the Fair Work Act so employers could not unjustly use it to deny redundancies.
“Spotless Group’s refusal to pay redundancy entitlements is in keeping with its brand of worker exploitation and wage theft,” she said. “This is the same company that in 2015 conspired to steal more than $270,000 in wages from cleaners at Myer.”
Quotes attributable to Tony Bush, former employee of Spotless Group at Sunshine Plaza:
“We should not have to go to court to receive our workplace entitlements. We were employed as permanent full time employees.
“I myself was employed for 6 years and some other guards at Sunshine Plaza had been employed on the same basis for over 10 years.
“It is disgusting that it has taken nearly 6 years to settle this and receive our rightful entitlements.
“It would have been very difficult for an individual to pursue such a claim without the union’s help, not to mention the huge expense.
“It was a very stressful time for all involved in this claim and would have been more so without the help of the union.
“From this experience, I would urge anyone employed in the Security and Cleaning sectors to be a member of the United Workers Union who offer invaluable help in ensuring you are not signing away your legal employment rights.”
Available for interview:
Georgia Potter Butler, Property Services Co-ordinator, United Workers Union
Tony Bush, former employee of Spotless Group
Link to full judgment here.
Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]