The Building Service Contractors of New Zealand (BSCNZ) and software company AskYourTeam have shared findings from a new workforce exploitation methodology that could be applied to the industry to improve transparency and reduce exploitation.
Launched at the BSCNZ conference in conjunction with AskYourTeam, a software company that designs feedback platforms, and other partner companies, the Worker Wellbeing Audit aims to increase transparency and help meet new government procurement obligations in the cleaning industry.
According to AskYourTeam’s Craig Whitcombe, the extent of worker exploitation in New Zealand’s cleaning industry remains relatively unknown, describing it as an issue “largely hidden in broad daylight”.
“We all share the ultimate objective of lifting the wellbeing of the workforce across the cleaning sector, and we can do that through using the voice of the employee in an intelligent way,” Whitcombe said.
“The cleaning sector has been identified as an at-risk industry for worker exploitation,” he told delegates.
“It has all the right ingredients for exploitation. There’s a high level of migrant [workers], it is a largely invisible workforce and workers are financially vulnerable.”
In November 2017, the Labour Inspectorate announced it would carry out random audits on as many as 60 cleaning companies across the country for five months as part of its renewed focus on the cleaning industry.
“[The Labour Inspectorate] identified a number of issues and since then there has been growth in business models that keep service costs low, often to the detriment of the employee, or the contractor,” said Whitcombe.
“In response to this the cleaning industry is a sector that has now been targeted by the government procurement’s new broader outcome strategy.”
Whitcombe said this solution is not just for government, with more corporates now starting to demand greater transparency of their supply chain and their suppliers’ supply chains, and sustainable sourcing is increasingly important across the board.
“The cases that we know about are just the tip of a very large iceberg.”
The pilot, launched two weeks ago, is being run with 150 workers at three commercial cleaning operators in Auckland. The purpose is to asses the viability of a tool for broader use across the cleaning sector.
According to Whitcombe the trial, which concludes at the end of this week, has reported a 70 per cent participation rate.
The audit includes 27 questions across key areas of worker wellbeing specific to the cleaning industry including contracts, pay, complaints, treatment at work, health and safety and culture.
Questions have been co-designed and relevant to the specific setting of the cleaning industry. All participants are anonymous.
“We know government wants to improve worker conditions across the industry, [therefore] employees need a tool that is recognised by government procurement and private sector buyers because [contractors] will start to need to prove worker wellbeing to win government contracts.
“Providing anonymous feedback gives them a voice, give them another channel to raise issues anonymously and safely, but their voice can improve not just their experience in their own workplace but help lift the wellbeing of employees across the industry.
“We want to meet the government half way to halt this race to the bottom because it’s the workers that seem to suffer through squeezing costs to win contracts.”
Whitcombe said AskYourTeam and the BSCNZ want to create a fair and level playing field.
“We want to position the BSCNZ as a leader in the fight against work exploitation in NZ. We want to positively raise the profile of the sector, which will help retain and attract skilled labour particularly now with the labour shortage and aging workforce.”
INCLEAN NZ attended the BSCNZ confernce as a guest of the BSCNZ.
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