The Guardian April 12, 2000


Dirty schools unacceptable

Cleaners working for contractors in the NSW public school system get 
only nine minutes to clean a classroom. As a result organisations 
associated with schools have spoken out about their concerns over the 
consequent health risks.

The NSW Teachers' Federation, the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens 
(P&C) Associations and the Public Schools Principals Forum agree that 
cleaning rooms to an acceptable standard in nine minutes is impossible.

They are not complaining about the cleaners but blame the terms of the 
cleaning contract between the Carr Government and three cleaning firms.

The lack of hours given to cleaners to clean schools means that across the 
State chewing gum remains on chairs, graffiti remains on desks, dust is not 
cleaned from fans, fittings and floors are left uncleaned and bins are not 
emptied.

Jennifer Killen, of the Canterbury-Bankstown P&C, said that since the new 
cleaning contracts came into being last year problems with the cleaning 
contractors had been a regular feature at P&C meetings.

The cleaning contract doesn't specify hours, it specifies standards of 
cleanliness, but as the contractors are private firms they aim to make a 
profit.

Public Schools Principals Forum chairman Brian Chudleigh said that to 
reduce their overheads contractors were reducing labour.

He said that at his school unemptied rubbish bins attracted vermin. "That 
is a health risk." Money from the school budget had been used to rid the 
school of cockroaches and fleas.

"Clearly we need more staff [to clean] and we're not getting that under the 
current contract", said Mr Chudleigh.

At St Johns Park Public School, contractors Broadlex propose to cut 
cleaning hours from the current 101 hours per week to 70.5 hours per week 
at a time when the school's student and staff population has reached 872  
the highest ever.

Despite the increase in students and staff, Broadlex is proposing a cut of 
more than 30 percent to the school's cleaning hours.

The cleaners, members of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' 
Union, cannot see how the current standard of cleaning can be maintained if 
cleaning hour cuts of that magnitude are carried out.

Teachers' Federation Assistant General Secretary Barry Johnson said the one 
thing the community would expect from the Government was that public 
schools were properly cleaned.

"This is not happening at the moment", he said. "School cleaning contracts 
allow for the reduction of cleaning hours over the life of the contract.

"It is a matter of logic that if there is not adequate time to clean 
schools properly, they will be even less clean when the hours are reduced."

NSW Federation of P&C Associations President, Bev Barker, said: "Parents 
have a right to expect that when they send their kids to school, the 
schools will be clean.

"It is unrealistic to expect classrooms to be properly cleaned in nine 
minutes."

Cleaners employed by the Menzies Cleaning Company went on strike for 48 
hours last Friday to protest against the cuts to cleaning hours.

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Acknowledgments: Education

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