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The NSW Government is demanding NSW school cleaners perform 650 “regular” cleaning tasks daily, or a separate task every 45 seconds.

“With cleaners expected to complete 650 tasks in a day it’s no wonder half of NSW school cleaners report being unable to complete their cleaning work,” United Workers Union Property Services Co-ordinator Linda Revill said today.

“A stopwatch approach to school cleaning is placing unsafe workloads on NSW school cleaners and it’s got to stop.

“The demoralising truth is NSW public school cleaners have the third highest injury rates in NSW from more than 500 different careers**, with injury rates equalled by sawmillers.

“School cleaners are stressed about not finishing their jobs, they are injuring themselves in the rush, and students, teachers and schools are left without the required cleaning.

”We are calling on the Liberal Government to end this failed privatisation.

“Cleaners are among the lowest-paid workers in NSW, working for $22.76 an hour, yet are exposed to impossible workloads, even as cleaner hours are being cut and cleaner numbers are reduced.”

The NSW Labor Opposition has committed to reviewing the privatisation of NSW public school cleaning, which is welcome news for students, teachers, school communities and cleaners.

Despite repeated requests – including handing over more than 700 personal postcards last year – NSW Premier Dom Perrottet has refused to talk to school cleaners about the conditions they face.

The NSW Government says the contract specification document “describes how a facility should be after cleaning, generally at the start of each working day”.

The cleaning tasks are drawn from a 12-page “contract specification summary” obtained by United Workers Union setting out 179 separate “regular” tasks that school cleaners are required to complete daily in different areas across schools.

When applied to a real-life cleaner’s daily work schedule**, regular tasks expected in areas including classrooms, canteens, offices, school grounds and corridors number 650, or 45 seconds a task.

“It’s shocking that work schedules allow cleaners only 17 seconds to clean a toilet,” Ms Revill said.

“It’s even more shocking that cleaners are expected to only take 45 seconds to achieve major cleaning tasks in toilet blocks with up to 19 toilets.

“This contract specification document clearly shows cleaners being exposed to unsafe workloads daily.

“The privatised approach where cleaners are treated as robots rather than human beings has to stop.”

The task list of 650 tasks in a day imposed on NSW school cleaners includes:

  • In a toilet block, 45 seconds to “damp clean partitions, skirting boards, doors, light fittings & tiled wall surfaces in toilets, showers & bathrooms” – alongside 18 other tasks.
  • In school grounds, 45 seconds to “sweep all paved areas or hose as required” – alongside six other tasks.
  • In a classroom, 45 seconds to “damp clean light switches, door jambs, wall surfaces below 3 metres” alongside 22 other tasks.

“I earn $22.76 an hour. I’ve been a school cleaner for 11 years now,” Justine, a school cleaner on the Central Coast, said.

“You feel a bit down when they come around and the site supervisor does an inspection and they hammer you for your windowsills not being dusted or your floors haven’t been mopped today or there are marks on the walls.

“NSW schools are much harder [than my previous job, cleaning resorts]. You’re on such a time limit – you have got 700 kids plus 50 teachers walking through your area and doing whatever they do.

“You look at your floors at 12 and say, Goodbye clean floor.”

* The workplace injury rate is based on NSW school cleaners having the third highest workers’ compensation premium of 9.46 per cent, equal to sawmillers:

** Based on the daily tasks of multiple real-life school cleaners’ workloads, each cleaning an average of 11 classrooms, 1 woodwork room, six toilet areas, a hall, a canteen, two tearooms, a staffroom, seven office/corridor areas, and an outside area in an 8-hour day.


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