Pointing out ‘we at Westfield really don’t know to clean a shopping centre’, Westfield non-executive chairman Frank Lowy told shareholders at the group’s AGM last Wednesday 17 May that questions from the floor pertaining to poor cleaners’ wages and low cleanliness levels really belong to the contractors providing the services.
An item by Scott Rochford in the Sydney Morning Herald’s CBD column (17 May) was, appropriately, headed ‘Westfield cleaners taken to the cleaners’.
The following day’s SMH letters’ page carried a riposte to Lowy’s comments and attitude by the Uniting Church’s social justice officer Antony McMullen.
“Cost-cutting contracts imposed on the cleaning industry by shopping centre owners and managers are hitting low-income workers hard (‘Westfield cleaners taken to the cleaners’, May 17). At Westfield’s AGM on Wednesday I politely questioned Frank Lowy and the Westfield Board, regarding unjust contracts in the cleaning industry,’ stated McMullen.
“In our Uniting Care survey, 54 percent of cleaners reported not having enough time to clean properly. There are larger spaces to clean over shorter periods of time, with fewer people available to do the work. Research undertaken for United Voice indicates hygiene levels in shopping centres are a problem. This could cause health issues for workers and customers.
“Wages are a problem, too, with 63 percent of cleaners who have children reporting hardship paying for groceries.
“We hope that Westfield will follow through with its commitments to justice and equity and review the terms for Westfield cleaning contracts. We suggest Westfield commit to ongoing and meaningful consultation with Westfield cleaners for this purpose,” concluded McMullen.