Investigation finds hotel chains ripped off cleaners

THREE of Australia's major prestige hotel chains have avoided court action despite a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation finding they collectively underpaid cleaners more than $57,000.

The four or five-star chains - Starwood (which owns Sheraton), Accor and Oaks Hotels - employed the cleaners through contractors that subcontracted out the work.

Most of the cleaners were international students or backpackers from China and Korea.

The main contractors found to be breaching pay rates and record-keeping rules were International Hotel Services, Empire Hospitality, Silk Hospitality Services and Challenger Hospitality. Each subcontracted out the work.

Ombudsman Natalie James reminded the "boardrooms of big businesses" that Fair Work laws meant big companies would be held accountable for their subcontractors' behaviour.

Some subcontractors were found to have paid cleaners for each room they cleaned, rather than at the appropriate award rate for an Australian cleaner.

The investigation followed more than 7600 calls to the FWO from cleaners.

Oaks Hotels has signed an "enforceable undertaking" to improve its employment practices, and Accor and Starwood have entered "compliance partnerships" with the FWO.