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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 2685 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

know that our entitlements will be paid to us when we claim them. Indeed, they are not like many people in the Public Service who can sit back comfortably and know that their entitlements will be paid when they ask for them.

Mr Speaker, these people work in an industry which is very different from the world we live in; nevertheless, it is just as important that we guarantee their rights. That is what this Bill is about. The Government should be supporting it. I hope that all other members of this place will support it.

MR RUGENDYKE (11.31): I rise briefly to mention that I am supportive of this Bill. I, too, have had representations and have been lobbied by industry representatives who, in the first place, did raise some concerns about the Bill. Those concerns were referred to Mr Berry for explanation, for clarification and for rectification, if necessary, and that has been done. Mr Speaker, there was a flurry of activity as late as yesterday from other industry groups which, quite frankly, have dropped the ball. They had not even noticed that the Bill had been tabled in June. They found out yesterday or the day before that this Bill was on the agenda. They had to concede that they had let themselves down, that they had been ignorant of the process, that they had been, obviously, unsupportive of the people that they represent.

I support the Bill. As Mr Corbell and Mr Berry have explained, the Bill simply provides the capacity for cleaners to transport their long service leave entitlements with them. I am supportive of the Bill. These people are entitled to what the Bill grants them.

MS TUCKER (11.33): The Greens also will be supporting this Bill, which ensures that people working in the cleaning industry can receive long service leave after a period of 10 years. I thought the argument from Mr Smyth was extraordinary, as did Mr Corbell. Basically, if employers are responsible they will be already taking into account their obligations in this area. I remind members of the very disturbing evidence to the Estimates Committee regarding the purchasing of cleaning in the ACT by schools under school-based management. Legitimate and responsible cleaning firms were objecting because they were not able to compete with cleaning contractors who did not take into account their full responsibilities. The cleaning firms which are taking responsibility are very concerned about other firms winning contracts with cheaper prices because they do not have regard for their responsibilities as employers.

Cleaners are low-paid workers. Many of them are women and many of them are from non-English speaking backgrounds. The entitlement is commonplace in other industries, but is not in this industry. Many cleaners in Canberra are from the Balkans. The majority are Macedonians, followed by Croatians and Serbs. Others are from the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Chile, Greece and Italy. There are a few Anglo or Celtic Australians in cleaning. The work is stressful, hard and unforgiving. There is a high level of physical injury resulting from lifting and chemical use. The occupational health and safety standards in the industry are not high. Employees are often ill-equipped or too frightened of losing their jobs to complain.

In 1997 a Trades and Labour Council project of the Art in Working Life Committee dealt with the conditions that cleaners work in and produced the publication Everyone needs cleaners eh, which was a collection of stories from migrant women cleaners.

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