Today, after months of engagement with the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), Scentre Group Limited agreed to report on how it prevents wage theft in its cleaning contracts and how it is managing safe workloads for cleaning staff. This new reporting will form part of its Responsible Business Report and Modern Slavery Statement to be released in the first half of 2021.
In response, ACCR has agreed to withdraw a planned shareholder resolution at their upcoming AGM calling for additional reporting from the company on its management of cleaning contracts.
Scentre Group Limited is the owner and operator of Westfield Shopping Centres in Australia and New Zealand. It is one of the largest procurers of commercial cleaning services in Australia, which has been identified as a high risk sector for modern slavery.
Under this new agreement, Scentre Group will disclose not just the processes for identifying and mitigating risks within their cleaning supply chains, but also how work, health and safety obligations are monitored and the efficacy of grievance mechanisms available to workers.
It reflects the seriousness of wage theft in the cleaning sector, and also the added risk to the company, investors and consumers in a COVID environment if cleaners are underpaid and unable to access sick leave.
Commenting on the agreement, Dr Katie Hepworth, Director of Workers’ Rights, said:
“Property owners are on notice. Investors want to know how they are meeting their obligations to cleaners and keeping us all safe.
“Cleaners are doing extra work to keep us safe, and Scentre Group has a responsibility to ensure that contracted cleaners are being properly paid and have appropriate protections in place to prevent infection and transmission of COVID-19.
“Scentre Group needs customers back in their malls, and this reporting will help to reassure investors and the public that steps have been taken to identify and mitigate issues in their cleaning supply chain.
“Victoria’s Chadstone Mall cluster began with a cleaner who worked while symptomatic, making clear the very real risks of reopening without addressing the work, health and safety breaches that are rife in cleaning contracts.
“We are pleased that Scentre Group has responded to calls for transparency in the due diligence it performs on its cleaning contracts.”