Government legislative changes allowing student visa holders to work up to 40 hours per week in the tourism and hospitality sector is undermining the cleaning industry and potentially placing Australian businesses and the health of Australians at risk, says Quayclean Australia Chief Executive, Mark Piwkowski.
Piwkowski has formally expressed his concerns in letters to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, Alex Hawke, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, and Karen Andrews, Minister for Home Affairs.
Hiring over 2200 workers across Australia under its fully employed model, Quayclean provide cleaning, hygiene. and waste management services to over 215 major public sites including the Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Racing Club, Parliament House in Victoria, Perth Zoo, Sydney Olympic Park, Marvel Stadium, Adelaide Oval, the SCG and Gabba, plus over 70 private schools.
Piwkowski said changes to student visa holders has had an immediate detrimental impact on Quayclean’s business and the wider cleaning industry during a time when COVID-19 outbreaks continue to arise.
Piwkowski said student visa holders comprise a large part of the cleaning industry workforce, but they are now walking away from cleaning employment, where they are regulated to only 20 hours per week, in favour of working in tourism and hospitality.
Our team at the State Library Victoria, who have been critical in maintaining a safe space for all patrons and staff throughout the pandemic period.
“60% of our employees are student visa holders who have indicated that their new-found ability to work 80 hours per fortnight in the tourism and hospitality sector means they need to consider their options,” said Piwkowski.
“Employees have resigned and accepted work that allows them to take advantage of the additional working hours and it may prove difficult to entice these workers back to the cleaning industry after the student working visa hours limit in the tourism and hospitality sector is reinstated.
“While the relaxation of the working hours limit might be temporary, we are concerned that the effect on our industry’s workforce will be far more enduring,” said Piwkowski.
“We believe the Government should prevent further damage to the cleaning industry by allowing our student workers the same rights as those in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Indeed, without a strong cleaning industry providing preventative hygiene services, the tourism and hospitality sector cannot thrive,” he said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of cleaning services to all aspects of public life. We cannot afford for this industry to be deprived of the dedicated, hardworking staff that have served the Australian public so well over the past 15 months,” he added.