Woolworths cleaner, tries to ‘clean-up’ to the tune of $300,000

25 October 2017

A cleaner claims he has been underpaid more than $300,000 in wages, overtime, annual leave and superannuation by Woolworths and three contracting businesses, despite being invoiced both as a sole trader and a company, not as an employee.

The cleaner claims that he was subcontracted by ASCC Pty Ltd (ASCC), A Sticker for Standards Pty Ltd (Sticker) and QTQ Cleaning Company Pty Ltd (QTQ) to provide cleaning services to Woolworths in Canberra between 2004 and 2015 and that throughout his 16 years cleaning for Woolworths, he was an employee of these three subcontracting companies, and not engaged as an independent contractor.

In support of this notion, he argues that between 2004 and 2009 he was operating purely under a subcontract agreement, and only registered as the corporation ‘Chris 2 Clean 4 U Pty Ltd’ as its sole director in 2009 when QTQ told him that if he did not do so, they would “get a different person” – however, he was still technically an employee.

He is also pursuing Harry Singh, the sole director of the cleaning companies, and Woolworths itself, for penalties pursuant to s 45 of the Fair Work Act 2009; arguing that through their involvement, they were either knowingly concerned in, or party to the contraventions.

Regarding Woolworths specifically, the cleaner submits that his work was for the retailer’s benefit and that Woolworths knew of all the logistics of his employment; such as how much he was paid, what his work entailed and his hours of service. Hence, the retailer had knowledge of the conventions.

It is from 2009 onwards, the cleaner alleges that his wages reduced but hours increased; and that from September 2012 until October 2015 he was paid varying amounts.

Prayer for relief and orders

The cleaner seeks $147, 870 in underpaid wages and penalty rates from Woolworths, Singh and the cleaning contractors pursuant to s 545 of the Fair Work Act 2009. He claims he is entitled to such due to the Cleaning Services Award 2010, which titled him as a Level 1 schedule D employee.

Additionally, he seeks a further $78, 330 in unpaid overtime, $52, 890 in unpaid annual leave entitlements and $23, 570 in unpaid superannuation contributions, plus interest. From the three contractors he seeks an additional $6, 690 in unpaid long service leave.

Woolworths maintains that the cleaner was never directly employed by their company, had no direct control over his work and was unaware of rostering or pay arrangements – as a result they deny all liability associated with the cleaner’s claim.

ASCC, QTQ, Sticker and Singh maintain that the cleaner was paid the amounts he was invoiced and worked no over time. They also deny that the subcontracting arrangement with the cleaner was akin to an employment relationship, and submit that “once he registered Chris 2 Clean 4 U, he ceased directly providing his services”.

As a result, Federal Circuit Court Judge Warwick Neville has ordered that this matter go for mediation on November 10, with further directions scheduled for November 27.