FWO investigated the case after an anonymous tip-off and found flat rates as low as $7 an hour.
Stadium cleaners hit with $330k in fines for worker underpayments
Cleaning companies that underpaid 25 workers almost $100,000 have been hit with more than $330,000 in penalties after the case was pursued by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).
The Federal Circuit and Family Court fined the principal contractor, a sub-contractor and two individual company directors engaged to clean Etihad (now Marvel) Stadium in Melbourne’s Docklands a total of $332,964 for unlawfully low rates paid to workers between February and June 2017.
The FWO began an investigation into the case after an anonymous tip-off online and made an unannounced late-night visit to Etihad Stadium after a 2017 AFL match to speak to the cleaners and gather evidence.
It found 25 cleaners were underpaid entitlements under the Cleaning Services Award 2010 including minimum ordinary hourly rates, casual loadings, penalty rates and overtime. Their flat rates varied from $7 to $23 an hour, resulting in total underpayments of $99,637.
National cleaning company Quayclean and its Melbourne-based subcontractor Ranvel were fined $174,420 and $114,480 respectively.
In addition, the owner-director of Ranvel, Indika Udara Lokubalasuriya, was fined $15,552 and a director of another subcontractor, Harjot Singh of the now defunct Lionheart Workforce, was penalised $28,512.
Quayclean was involved as an accessory in most of the underpayment contraventions because the amounts it paid Ranvel and Lionheart were insufficient to enable the companies to provide the relevant cleaning services while meeting minimum award entitlements.
The affected cleaners have been back-paid in full.
Judge Caroline Kirton found that all respondents had deliberately contravened workplace laws and Quayclean had admitted knowingly underfunding its subcontractors.
Imposing the penalties, Judge Kirton said she was “conscious of the need to ensure that other businesses in the cleaning industry are deterred from engaging in similar conduct”.
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said the regulator was committed to taking action to address the exploitation of vulnerable workers in supply chains in high-risk industries such as cleaning.
“We welcome the substantial penalties in this case,” Ms Hannah said.
“We conduct thorough investigations of supply chains to gather the evidence we need and we are prepared to take action against multiple levels of supply chains for non-compliant conduct.
“Workers employed in the cleaning sector are low-paid, often vulnerable migrant workers with limited awareness of their workplace rights. We treat deliberate underpayments of such workers particularly seriously.”