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Almost 300 school cleaners have exposed the impossible workloads they face in NSW schools, reporting high injury rates amid contractors cutting back hours.

As they rush from job to job workers report a host of injuries at schools including “fractured kneecap from falling down stairs”, “broken wrist”, “broken fingers” and “fractured ankle”.

Cleaners have reported they need to perform more than 600 tasks a day under the terms of the NSW Government’s privatised cleaning contracts – meaning less than 45 seconds for each task.

In the More Tasks Than Time survey conducted by United Workers Union in late July and August:

  • About half said contractors had cut back cleaning hours in the last five years.
  • 37 per cent said they had been injured at work in the last five years.
  • 34 per cent said they had experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination at work in the last five years.
  • 75 per cent said workloads had become worse in the last five years; a further 22 per cent said workloads were “the same as always”. Only 3 per cent said workloads had become better.

To add insult to injuries, more than half of NSW school cleaners said they had even had trouble receiving the correct pay.

“As the NSW Government prepares to review NSW school cleaning contracts it’s clear the privatisation of NSW school cleaning has completely failed school cleaners and school communities,” United Workers Union Property Services co-ordinator Linda Revill said today.

“NSW school cleaners are trapped in a privatised system that lands them with impossible workloads.

“Workers who are expected to do more than 600 tasks in a day report serious injuries as they rush from job to job.

“The survey shows the duty to provide a safe workplace has been abandoned by contractors as they cut back cleaning hours at schools and they give cleaners even more towering workloads.

“Cleaners also report bullying and harassment from contractors as their tasks prove unachievable.

“In NSW schools where members of the community should feel safe cleaners are facing dangerously high workloads daily.

“It’s high time the failed privatisation is ended and NSW school cleaners are employed directly by the NSW Government.”

The survey adds to evidence from the NSW’s Workers Compensation premiums showing NSW school cleaners as one of the most dangerous occupations in the state.

It also paints a picture where private sector contractors have failed to fulfill basic workforce rights including occupational health and safety, effective anti-bullying policies and accurate payroll systems.

The figure of more than 600 tasks is based on cleaners’ reports of the separate areas they are expected to clean daily, with daily per-area tasks calculated using the NSW Government contract specifications outlined in this document.

Quotes from cleaners:

“The contractor does not give me enough time to clean my areas to a reasonable level yet the contractor threatens me with warnings and dismissal if I do not make sure the areas are cleaner. They don’t listen to my concerns or opinions about the unsafe, unreasonable requests that they give me on a weekly basis.”

“Cleaning 14 demountable is time consuming. Moving from one demountable to the next takes time, time that I don’t get.”

“Very hard and demanding  and you get no thanks  for what you do from the company I work for.”


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