Homeless centre cleaners lose jobs after St Vincent de Paul NSW ditches contractor

Cleaners at one of St Vincent de Paul's homeless centres face being left out in the cold after the charity dumped one of its contractors.

This month, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW dismissed its cleaning company, Nationwide Health and Aged Services, which were contracted to clean Frederic House, a long-term refuge for homeless men in Sydney.

Shane Vining-Brown, a cleaner for St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, says he is devastated by news he could lose his job so close to Christmas. Photo: Louise Kennerley

Three cleaners now face losing their jobs at Nationwide if they cannot be redeployed within the organisation by December 31. Nationwide is also refusing to pay the workers a redundancy and said it is under no obligation to do so.

The Health Services Union, which is assisting the workers, is holding the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW to account, insisting it has a moral and legal obligation to help the workers.

Shane Vining-Brown, 55, said he has been working for Nationwide for eight years, the last two spent cleaning bedrooms at Frederic House. He said he was not surprised St Vincent de Paul terminated the contract after Nationwide cut back cleaning hours and skimped on cleaning equipment.

"We didn't have the right equipment and the equipment we did have was so faulty you could throw it in the bin – everything they did give us was reconditioned," he said.

Vining-Brown, who suffers depression, said he was devastated by the news he could lose his job so close to Christmas.

"I really don't know what I am going to do," he said.

Nationwide said it did not lose the contract due to performance issues, and was not aware of any complaints about the quality of its work. Instead, the company said it was told by St Vincent de Paul it lost the contract because the charity was consolidating and standardising its service providers.

"Nationwide has an exemplary performance record," a spokesman said.

The company said it was disappointed it did not have the opportunity to continue the contract "or negotiate a more palatable exit date, given the proximity to Christmas".

The Health Services Union has written to the St Vincent De Paul Society NSW urging it to try and redeploy the cleaners either inside the charity or with a new contractor.

"As an organisation that claims to assist people in need and combat social injustice across Australia and internationally, this is hypocritical and appalling behaviour," said NSW HSU Secretary Gerard Hayes.

"St Vincent De Paul needs to live the values it preaches."

A spokeswoman from the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW said the charity made an "operational decision" to appoint another cleaning contractor, and that it was now working closely with the union to do "all that is reasonably possible to ensure a positive outcome for the three Nationwide employees impacted".