Skip to content Skip to footer

The privatisation of school cleaning in NSW has failed schools, school communities and cleaners, United Workers Union said today.

In the most recent large-scale survey of more than 400 NSW school cleaners, half said they did not have enough time to complete the necessary cleaning and a quarter said they had not been properly paid by private contractors.

Almost 80 per cent of school cleaners reported they worked split shifts, where their day can span 13 hours as they complete the bulk of their work before school and after school.

NSW school cleaners are enduring a privatised regime where hours are regularly cut, full-time jobs vanish and cleaners face long hours and impossible workloads as they attempt to clean schools properly.

United Workers Union has raised examples of work schedules that give one cleaner 10 minutes to clean a school’s 36 toilets – or about 17 seconds to clean a toilet.

The unsafe workloads for cleaners in the schools they are supposed to clean have led to calls for the privatised services to be brought back under direct NSW Government control when the contract expires in December 2023.

“If cleaners in the ACT, Queensland and Western Australia can be employed directly by the government, why shouldn’t we?” Milena, a NSW school cleaner with more than 23 years experience, said today.

“Contracting out is not working for us; we need better.”

The calls follow NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns’ promise that Labor would not pursue further privatisations if elected in March.

“It’s not good enough the state is spending $1.75 billion on this five-year contract but cleaners have in some cases seen their numbers more than halve at their schools,” Linda Revill, United Workers Union Property Services Co-ordinator, said today.

“Schools aren’t being cleaned safely or properly and cleaners are barely scraping out a living.

“When work plans literally allow 17 seconds to clean a toilet, we know we have entered the end game of privatisation. Cleaners are being sacrificed to achieve unrealistic goals.

“NSW school cleaners are a living example of a failed privatisation that needs to be reversed, to the benefit of children, parents, teachers, schools and the workers.”

Ms Revill outlined the experience of cleaners Judith and Milena to illustrate declines occurring in some schools under privatised contracts:

  • Milena’s experience: 13 cleaners cut back to 5.5 cleaners.
  • Judith’s experience: 3 cleaners cut back to 2 cleaners.

Judith said: “Hours are cut from contract to contract. Workloads are increased. There is a lack of training and minimal equipment to do the job.”


Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]


Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]