Massive audit to hit regional cleaning businesses

CLEANING businesses across regional Queensland and New South Wales will be audited as part of a mass campaign by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The campaign will include audits of employers' responsibilities at up to 1000 cleaning contractors throughout the country.

Regional towns are a particular target, with places such as Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Gladstone, Mackay, Gympie, Toowoomba and the Sunshine Coast on the hit list.

Inspectors with the FWO will also scrutinise tendering and procurement processes for cleaning contracts at major shopping centres at numerous capital cities around the country.

Acting Ombudsman Michael Campbell said the cleaning industry was again being targeted after 40% of all businesses audited in 2010 were found to be non-compliant.

"The cleaning industry continues to generate many complaints to our agency and we recover hundreds of thousands of dollars for underpaid cleaning workers each year," he said.

Mr Campbell said the industry also employs many vulnerable workers, such as young people and migrants, who might not be fully aware of their rights.

The audit campaign was welcomed by cleaning union United Voice, with national secretary Michael Crosby saying there were still shonky operators in the industry.

"Many companies run successful and ethical businesses. They do the right thing by their clients and ensure cleaners are legally and fairly employed under the Clean Start Agreement, which sets the national quality standards in the industry," he said.

"Then there are the others - shonky operators, who will do anything for a quick buck,"

Mr Crosby said cleaners often worked alone and late at night, making them even more vulnerable to exploitation.

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