Archive for September, 2010

OCS in the Gun Again

Trans-national cleaning company OCS is in trouble again with the SFWU, its client and the Courts over a messy attempt at Massey University to slash the hours of 60 cleaning staff.

Barely three months ago several public hospitals were threatening to terminate OCS contracts after the company engaged in Russian roulette with the union and the District Health Boards about whether they would pay a 2% pay increase already agreed to by the 20 District Health Boards and the other three major sector contractors.

On this occasion OCS won a tender to clean the three Massey University campuses from rival companies Spotless and Total Property Services.

They complied with Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act and transferred over the 60 mostly full-time cleaners only to turn around and announce that they wanted to introduce a new form of innovative team cleaning that meant they could only guarantee the cleaners 25 hours per week during term time and no hours during the 21 weeks of university holidays.

When the cleaners rejected this proposal OCS told them they had 10 days to accept a position on these new hours or their employment would be terminated without compensation.

OCS boasts about the strong connections with its UK parent company and the 40 countries in which the OCS Group delivers services “in accordance with the leading international standards, best practices and innovations”.

The union was scratching its head wondering how reducing its cleaners’ annual income by over 50% was either innovative or up with the leading international standards that OCS was so proud of. It sounded to us like good old exploitation of its workforce.

The Employment Court was also left puzzled when it was told by OCS in evidence that it was only after becoming the successful tenderer that it considered what staff resources were going to be needed to do the job. In a judgement restraining OCS from sacking the cleaners, the Court noted that given about 80% of cleaning costs were in the labour resource, it was a strange commercial process.

While the union now has 10 days to negotiate with OCS about redundancy entitlements, it is time for large international companies such as OCS to decide whether they want to adopt a “high-road” approach to their business or one that is always looking to cut labour costs back to the lowest common denominator.

I hope that for the sake of its cleaning workforce that it chooses the former rather than the latter.


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