Australia investigation finds exploitation of cleaning workers

4th of October 2013
Australia investigation finds exploitation of cleaning workers

A comprehensive investigation of conditions for international students who clean Melbourne's office towers in Australia has found them subject to exploitation, job insecurity and abuse.

The trades union United Voice has released the report called A Dirty Business, in which it says international students have become an "invisible mainstay" of Melbourne's cleaning industry.

The report took seven months to research and write and was based on interviews with almost 250 cleaners.

It found international students were largely unaware of their workplace rights, and as a result were being systematically underpaid - some by up to 10,300 euros a year.

One cleaner, named in the report as Preeta, said she worked in the evening at a central Melbourne office block. She said she worked alongside "white people" who were paid by a main contractor, while the mostly Asian casual cleaning staff worked for a subcontractor who paid them less.

"The Asian people and those from the poor countries, they are working for the subcontractor. The white people, actually whoever is the nationality of owners of the main company, they straight away are paid from the main company - but not us," she said.

More than half the cleaners in office towers are students from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Colombia. Each international student contributes 20,700 euros to the economy, and for every student who comes to Australia about one-third of a full-time job is created, a Universities Australia study found.



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