At CAF’s 10 Year Anniversary celebration, Aria Tran, a dedicated CAF Representative and cleaner, spoke movingly about the exploitation cleaners face in the cleaning industry and how, in her role, she helps to advocate for the rights of cleaners at her workplace. Below is the speech Aria delivered on the night:
Hello, everyone! I’m Aria and hope you’re all doing well. A little bit about me, I came to Australia as an international student, work many jobs to support my dream of building a better life for myself and family here. After becoming an Australian citizen and working in my field, I continue to work as a cleaner part time to earn extra and get through the storm of raising costs of living. As may some of you know most of the cleaners are international students like I was when I first arrived here, immigrant workers and mainly women. Many don’t speak the language, so this makes them so vulnerable for exploitation. At the same time are the workers who feel and believe that because they are on visas, they don’t have any right at work including the right to join the union.
Challenges faced by cleaners
I know so many cleaners that have been exploited. All from different backgrounds. Some companies ask them to provide Business number to be able to get a job and pay less money per hour and don’t pay their leave entitlement and superannuation. This is just an example in how hard it can be. I been hearing many of them no having where to live as they can afford high school fees and all other expense like accommodation and food. Some of them relied on charities to provide them their food. The cleaner’s wages are too low. We do an incredible job to keep all buildings, shopping centres, schools, universities, and airports clean and hygiene for everyone to enjoy and work in a safe and clean environment. We deserve more than what we get. I am thankful for my union, and everyone involve in CAF as this I believe has been a first good step in the right direction to improve cleaner’s conditions but is still a lot more to be done.
Exploitation in the cleaning industry
I decided to take the role of the CAF representative at my workplace after hearing all the issues that cleaners are facing in this country including low pay, not enough time to do their work, basic things like not enough uniforms or equipment to perform their jobs, bullying and harassment a big one in cleaning. Many supervisors when they know how vulnerable and how much the cleaners need the job to be able to survive in this country take advantage of it and treat them badly. Another big issue no job security at all. Every tine there is a contract change we don’t know if we will be able to keep our jobs. Many cleaners even after been working on the same site for over 10 or 20 years. Many cleaners also feel like having no voice, scared of losing job if they wish to raise any issue due to their limited English skills or communication skills. Some chose to quiet quitting, some chose to put up with unfair treatments as the bills are waiting.
Dedication to lifting labour standards for cleaners’
I want to contribute to the improvement of their lives and my own workplace in Victoria. In my role, I am committed to ensuring that our workplace not only meets but exceeds expectations. It’s not just about the tasks at hand; it’s about creating an atmosphere where everyone feels valued, compensated fairly, and treated with respect. I am dedicated to cultivating a multicultural and inclusive workplace where diversity is celebrated, and every voice is heard. I believe that with CAF we can create a place where every cleaner can feel free to express their concerns and issues at work and have a voice in their representative like me to be heard and understood, feel free to join our union without the fear of been targeted for it. I believe that’s how my workmates see and feel about my role in our building. I ask all the people in this room today to please keep advocating and supporting the improvements of cleaner’s jobs. Thank you.