‘How can they do this to people?’: school cleaners hit out at changes

Aug 6, 2018 by

Fifteen classrooms, 17 toilets, three urinals, 32 rubbish bins, 12 drinking fountains and 40 windows.

That’s what Lisa Berryman is expected to clean during her four-hour shift at a Melbourne primary school.

Then there are the less frequent tasks: mopping the gym and art room, wiping down 600 chairs, scrubbing the classroom sinks and cleaning the staff room and offices.

Lisa Berryman says her conditions and pay have deteriorated under the new arrangements for school cleaners.
Lisa Berryman says her conditions and pay have deteriorated under the new arrangements for school cleaners.Photo: Simon Schluter

Ms Berryman used to have an extra hour and 20 minutes a day to complete these tasks.

But in the wake of a state government overhaul of school cleaning, she’s been stripped of seven hours of work a week and her pay has dropped from $25.65 per hour to $23.49.

This amounts to more than a $200 weekly pay cut.

“How can they do this to people?” she said. “They have given us worse working conditions.”

While the changes were aimed at stamping out the underpayment of workers, cleaners like Ms Berryman say their pay and conditions have deteriorated.

Under the new arrangements, Melbourne state schools no longer employ their own cleaners, with the Education Department tearing up more than 100 contracts and replacing them with just eight.

The move has caused widespread concern among principals, with 120 schools lodging complaints with the Education Department.

The Age revealed last week that aggrieved parents were complaining about dirty conditions at their schools due to cleaning being significantly reduced.

Ms Berryman, who has worked at her school for almost a decade, lost her accrued sick leave and long-service leave when she took up a job with the new contractor appointed to her school.

The 51-year-old said the school she once cleaned with pride is becoming dirty.

“I used to enjoy being able to go in and do my work and feel accomplished,” she said.

“Now I leave the school and feel like the job hasn’t been done.”

She’s had to leave spilt yoghurt on the carpet and doesn’t have time to vacuum the floors daily.

“I’m worried people will think it is me,” she said.

Victorian School Building Authority chief executive Chris Keating said there were “implementation issues” with the new model. He is dealing with about 30 ongoing problems, with the most common gripe a reduction in cleaning hours.

Mr Keating said new standards had been introduced that specified exactly what needed to be cleaned.

“We have absolute confidence across all the schools involved there is right standards, right frequency and enough money to provide the right number of hours,” he said.

“There will be no cleaners out there who are not being paid as the law requires.”

He said some cleaners were previously paid a higher hourly rate, but they were often paid incorrect entitlements.

Source: ‘How can they do this to people?’: school cleaners hit out at changes

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