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Cleaning industry harmed by change to visa rules

cleaner wearing protective mask

The recent announcement by the Morrison Government that eligible visa holders can now work beyond the 20 hour/week limit has been met with disappointment and anger,  with the cleaning industry harmed by this change to visa rules.

Feeling betrayed and forgotten, this shortsighted decision is devastating news to the Australian cleaning industry, who are losing workers in droves.

According to statistics published by the Allied Market Research group, the industry generates a staggering $12 billion dollars into the Australian economy each year, employs over 160,000 people, and supports over 32,000 cleaning businesses across the nation.

Much of the cleaning workforce, particularly in regional areas,  consists of people on eligible visas, a fact that the Minister for Home Affairs, Hon Alex Hawke MP, seemingly overlooked completely.

The Morrison government has decided to tackle the severe labor shortage by shifting the problem and causing mass exodus in other industries to support hospitality and tourism.   Health care, agriculture and aged care for all other industries that had previously had working hours for visa holders relaxed due to the pandemic.  They are considered front line workers.

What about the cleaners?  

clean corp cleaner in hallwayThe cleaning industry will be harmed by this change to visa rules.

Forgotten by this government initiative, cleaning companies across Australia are reporting that large numbers of their cleaning staff have left to pursue work in tourism and hospitality, to work uncapped hours and earn considerably more.

So, the hotel housekeepers and cleaners can work unlimited hours.    But cleaners cannot.

And can’t professional cleaners clean hospitality venues? And airports? Isn’t that what they have previously done? And currently do?

Confused?  Aren’t they all basically the same role?

The issue here is that despite providing COVID cleaning and disinfection services right through the pandemic, ensuring businesses could re-open after a positive case, the Australian cleaning industry is not considered a ‘critical sector’.

Despite our contribution to the economy of $12B per year and employing more than 160,000 people, many of them are people on eligible working visas.

What else do we, as an industry, need to do to prove how ‘critical’ we actually are to Australia? 

How is it fair that eligible visa holders working as housekeepers, or maids, can work full-time hours, because they are employed in what is considered a “critical industry”?   However, the identical role, who already service these types of venues within the same industries, are capped at 20 hours a week?

Simply because they aren’t in the “right” sector.

The facts are irrefutable.

Eligible visa holders are quitting their cleaning industry jobs, remaining legally unable to do more work in the cleaning sector, even if they want to.     As a result, the industry as a whole are  seeing staffing pressures, and unless addressed, this could drive prices up for cleaning services in the future.

Sadly, this initiative has created more problems than solutions in the cleaning industry.

Just to be clear, at Cleancorp, we are not in any way opposed to this initiative for the hotel, tourism, and agriculture industries.  These are vital industries that we need to support.

However, we are opposed to the idea that the cleaning industry is not considered ‘vital’ to the Australian Government.

It was cleaning staff who bravely stepped up every time there was a confirmed case of COVID-19 to provide disinfection services.

So businesses were able to re-open quickly due to the speed and skills of the cleaning staff who provided COVID cleaning and disinfection services.

Taking choice out of the hands of the hardworking men and women who CHOOSE to work in the cleaning industry, these new visa rules will undoubtedly create staff shortages.

Let’s hope there are no more cases of COVID19, because if the Government doesn’t include the cleaning industry on the ‘critical’ list, it may become very difficult in the future to find staff to provide these services, and then where would we be?