Interview: Trading Places
Safety: Snow Job
Politics: In the Vanguard
Unions: Gentle Giant Goes For Gold
Bad Boss: 'Porker' Chases Blue Ribbon
International: Cruising For A Bruising
History: Under the Influence
Economics: Working Capital
Review: Fahrenheit 9/11
Poetry: Bad Intelligence Rap
Satire: Osama Bin Manchu
The Locker Room
Tom Goes Asexual
Road Rage At Work
Democracy In Action
Cleaners Deserve Our Support
They are up at the crack of dawn. They are the first to arrive and the last to leave. Many of them work alone. They wade through dirt, dust and rubbish. They sweep, vacuum and polish. They wash down chairs, tables, window ledges and classroom equipment. They clean up and disinfect the toilets which are used by hundreds of students and teachers every day. They keep a watchful eye over the grounds, buildings and students alike.
This and more is the work of the State's 6,000 NSW School and TAFE cleaners.
They are expected to leave the schools hygienically clean, safe and tidy and they are expected to do all this in an unbelievable short period of time. They take home around $13.00 an hour for their work.
Loyalty and Long Service
The majority of the school cleaners are women and many thousands of them are migrants. Most are over 45 years of age. Over a thousand of these workers have been cleaning schools for more than 15 years. These school cleaners are hurting badly because of the way successive State Governments have introduced savage cuts to their cleaning hours in the name of cost cutting.
Over the last decade it is estimated that there has been a 25% reduction in cleaning hours across the state. This has led to many cleaners often working in excess of their rostered hours to get the job done. Others have simply given up trying to do the impossible in the time allocated. Many cleaners are being injured as a consequence of faster work routines and in adequate equipment. The school cleaners have been doing the best they can in very difficult circumstances. But things are about to get a lot worse for them.
Act of Betrayal
In what many cleaners believe is an act of betrayal, the State Government will not guarantee any of them their jobs when the State Cleaning Contracts come up for renewal next year.
When Bob Carr was Labor's Opposition leader he promised to reverse the Greiner Liberal Government's decision to privatise school cleaning. When he won his first election in 1995 he failed to deliver on the promise.
What he did do however, was to guarantee the existing cleaners their jobs and entitlements but only on the basis that cleaning companies did not need to automatically back fill vacant positions as they came up .The privatisation of the government cleaning service lead to a dramatic cut back in cleaning hours in schools. The cleaners and their union (LHMU) reluctantly agreed to these changes in exchange for job security.
After having endured the pain of cost cutting over many years the cleaners are now being hung out to dry.
The State government argues that they are not getting value for money out of the private cleaning companies who now clean the schools. That might be so, but don't blame the cleaners who can only do their best in the time they have been given.
Not Enough Time
In fact, what is clear is that the State Government wants to cut even more cleaning hours out of the States schools. The easiest way to do this is to give the cleaning contracts to new cleaning companies. These companies will not be required to employ the existing cleaners. This is because the government wants to further reduce the cleaning services provided in each school in order to save money. New cleaning companies will only be required to do basic cleans. Many parents and teachers are unhappy with the standard of cleaning now because of the previous cutbacks.
The standard of cleaning is about to get much worse if the Government's proposals go ahead.
Don't hurt the Battlers
We are not talking here about the government taking action to save money through reviewing the work of well-paid executives who have their nose in the trough. These cleaners are the battlers that State labor is supposed to look after. The chances of many of these cleaners finding secure employment in the current labor market is very remote. They deserve and should expect a lot better from Bob Carr's government.
The cleaners and their union (LHMU) are angry and they don't intend to sit idly by and let the bureaucrats in Macquarie Street put them on the unemployment scrapheap. The cleaners know if they take industrial action they will inconvenience parents, teachers and students alike. But they cannot sit back and allow their jobs and the quality of cleaning services at their school to be destroyed.
The school cleaners deserve our support. More importantly, they deserve the unconditional support of their local State Members of Parliament. I know many of the local State Members of Parliament have expressed either concern or opposition to what their government is proposing but they need to do more than pay lip service to the issue. They have the power to change this very bad decision. Time will tell whether they have the capacity to do so.
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Mobile : 0425231813
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|
© 1999-2002 Workers Online