The courts have determined a company that laid off 21 cleaners breach the Fair Work Act.
The courts have determined a company that laid off 21 cleaners breach the Fair Work Act. Warren Lynam

Justice finally served for 21 cleaners

TWENTY-one employees who were wrongly terminated from their contracts at the Sunshine Plaza have finally reached justice almost four years later.

Trade union, United Voice took action against Berkeley Challenge after it contravened the Fair Work Act and failed to provide valid notices of termination to employees or pay them redundancy.

In 1994, Berkeley began to provide cleaning contact services to Lend Lease at the plaza, but was acquired by the Spotless Group five years later.

Despite a company within the group becoming the party that contracted with Lend Lease, Berkeley continued to be responsible for employing staff.

In January 2014, Lend Lease invited tenders for a new contractor to provide cleaning services, but Spotless' submission was unsuccessful.

The company was given until September 30 to leave the shopping centre, which was extended until October 7.

In early October, Berkeley terminated 21 employees, but according to witness statements the direction was so vague many didn't know they had been fired.

"I was not advised and did not understand that (Berkeley) losing the contract would mean my employment would be terminated as of October 7," one former employee said.

Justice John Reeves determined in his judgement on August 10, 2018 that Berkeley failed to give its employees valid notice and compensation.

"I consider that the vagueness of its notice added to the stress that they would have inevitably have felt on being faced with the prospect of becoming unemployed," he said.

Berkeley were ordered to pay a total of $13,500 to United Voice.

The company has paid $209,000 to affected workers as part of a previous court order.