Sixty cleaners at University of Tasmania campuses in Hobart and Launceston have been saved from financial distress this Christmas.
Following mediation in the Fair Work Commission, cleaning contractor GJK Facility Services backed down on their attack on the cleaners’ pay over the upcoming Christmas period. GJK have agreed to pay their permanent employees their regular pay packet over the Christmas holidays and roster them on for regular shifts.
GJK Facility Services had told the permanently employed cleaners that they wouldn’t be given any work over the upcoming Christmas period, with workers to lose up to a month’s pay. The cleaners had also been told they would have no say in the weeks they would be cut from the roster across the Christmas holidays.
UTAS cleaner Anna Reay says, “When cleaners join their union and work together they can achieve anything. We are all so relieved to have our Christmas back, and we want to thank the community and the students for all their support.”
Sarah Ellis, United Workers Union Tasmanian spokesperson says, “This is a great win for workers in Tasmania. United Workers Union fought GJK all the way on this one. We could not let our hard-working members who rely on their regular pay packet to go without money over Christmas. It was a totally outrageous attack by GJK on the pay and normal annual leave provisions Australian workers are entitled to.
“We remain disappointed that UTAS Vice-Chancellor Rufus Black and UTAS management would not step in, forcing the union to lodge a complaint with the Fair Work Commission. We remain concerned about the ethics of campus management – especially as this was not the first attack on cleaners at UTAS in 2019.
“We congratulate the members for their courage and solidarity in fighting this intolerable situation, and for their win.”
Following the Fair Work Commission mediation GJK agreed to rely on the Annual Close Down provision in Clause 29.6 of the Cleaning Services Award. And agreed to the conditions in the National Employment Standards and the Cleaning Services Award whereby paid annual leave may be taken for a period agreed between the relevant employee and GJK.
UTAS has a sorry history of trampling on workers’ rights and entitlements by cost cutting and engaging in a race to the bottom with service providers and contract changes. In April of this year, UTAS decided to cut costs and changed to new cleaning contractor, GJK Facility Services. Nine cleaners were sacked, after a campaign by United Voice seven cleaners were reinstated only for GJK to sack five of them on the eve of their probation ending in August. United Voice set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help these cleaners pay the bills. A year ago, security guards lost their jobs during a contract change to save costs.