School cleaning reforms to reduce principal workload

by Robert Ballantyne11 Aug 2017

The Victorian Government has announced a fairer school cleaning contract model that will ensure schools get consistent, high quality services and cleaners are paid properly.

Multiple investigations over the past 12 months found that vulnerable staff were being underpaid and mistreated – a situation that Victoria’s Minister for Education, James Merlino, said would change by giving them “a fair deal”.

The model – which will be rolled out across Melbourne next year, prior to its roll out across regional Victoria – will also reduce the workload of principals by freeing up the time spent managing cleaning contracts.

“Cleaning staff are valued members of our school communities, and this new model will strengthen their working conditions and make sure they get a fair deal,” Merlino said.

“This new model will ensure schools get high quality cleaning services, principals are better supported to look after their schools and cleaners are treated fairly.”

Meanwhile, the Victorian Education Department will work with existing cleaning contractors to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements, with support available for small businesses.

In a statement today, Meredith Peace, president of the Australian Education Union (AEU) Victorian Branch, welcomed the new model, saying it would ensure consistent working conditions in schools.

“Parents expect principals to be able to focus on educational leadership within the school community, not be drowning in administration and compliance, including managing school cleaning contracts,” Peace said.

“It makes sense to centralise cleaning contracts for public schools. One of the main concerns principals have is the high volume of administration and compliance they’re required to do.”

Peace said cleaners working in the state’s schools can be guaranteed all of their lawful wages and entitlements.

“Today’s announcement that we will now have area-based cleaning models that are overseen by Government will mean principals and school councils are relieved of the burden of managing cleaning arrangements,” she said.

“Principals are already working upward of 60 hours a week. Now that cleaning contracts will be centrally administered, rather than administered at a school-level, they can tick one more thing off their to-do lists.”



  • by Stu 12/08/2017 10:42:39 AM

    If there was a serious effort to reduce principal workload it wouldnt be through cleaning. It wouldbe through complisnce with OH&S being centralised.

    If people are treated more fairly because of the changes thats a good thing. But - bringing in these changes under the veil of 'reduced workload for principals' is s joke. It hasmuch more to do with pressure on government from the United Voice union who represent cleaners than anything else.

  • by Contractor 15/08/2017 3:52:03 AM

    Hi im a cleaning contractor.
    I think the hole thing stinks! It all wrong.. Its all about the union and getting staff to pay fees.
    I have been building my company for 23 years and do all the right things by the school and my staff and now im going to be forced to close my company down and loose everything I have worked for. The Department should be ashamed of them self. 23 years cleaning up after teachers and student's just to be told (see ya). The union are full of it.... going around bulling my staff, liaing to them, telling them they are not getting paid correctly 4weeks before the wage increase on the 1st of July making the staff think they are being ripped off when tbey are not, tell staff they are from the goverment not the union, telling staff that they must fillout a form when it is really a voluntary survey when they declined. We services 15 schools and the principal have very little to do with regards to (taking care of cleaners) we do our jobs we are seen but not heard. If the Department thinks that this will make thing better then they have no idea about what it takes to keep a school clean. That make clames that all the cleaning staff will be retained but what about the people that have trained these staff members, have dedicated there lives to there business and schools what do they get? I will tell you (bankruptcy) thats what contractors like me have to look forward too. Its nice to know that after 23 years of employing people, generating job, looking after schools, unblocking maybe 1000 toilets one would think that they would be looking forward to retirement in the years to come but now with the Departments backwards thinking it now bankruptcy.. I hope this thinking isn’t in the school curriculum. Way to go DEECE

  • by Cleaning Contractor- Name withheld 18/08/2017 9:16:48 AM

    I have worked in the cleaning industry for more than 30 years. What has been occurring to cleaning rates over the past 10 years especially is distressing.

    Yes there are many unscrupulous, unethical operators in our industry who exploit the people at the very heart of the work. These people are happy to take advantage of the people doing the work, rip off the system and reap profits that are ill-gotten.

    But please, let's not be delusional, it is not all contractors, it is not happening in every school.

    What the department fails to acknowledge is that the system as it stands has failed because there is no check and balance at the department level. Dare I say that the school councils, who ultimately make the decisions, will be romanced by low pricing as they see that cleaning is just cleaning.

    The reality is that cleaning is about delivering services with adequate labour resources and management knowledge, generally learnt over time not the minutes it takes to register a business name, grab an ABN , mop bucket and vacuum cleaner.

    If the school councils entrusted with oversight of school budgets, had the remotest understanding of direct labour and associated employment related costs and guidance on realistic productivity rates, they would be able to genuinely assess the wheat from the chaff in the tenders they receive. They would see that a school that might take 10 hours per day to clean should cost about $400 per day to clean. Instead they get a price half that and an assurance from the contractor that they will be doing 10 hours labour.

    If you do the maths, that is the equivalent of $20 per hour. The direct wages alone for an afternoon shift cleaner is $22.48 plus all the trimmings.

    Maybe what should be happening is that the department cast an eye over the bids.

    This new planned intervention by the Department will assure one thing and it is not the things they want to assure (good service and fairness in wages), it will kill businesses who are good honest and ethical businesses, because the department can't get its act in order.

    Given the backlash that we are seeing from the Principal class, who legitimately fear having their good contractors turfed out, only to be appointed one of no more than eight companies (where the people who own the businesses will never meet the Principals or the cleaning staff on sites) Mr Andrews and his Union mates may just have a bit of a fight on their hands.

    Another calamitous decision by our illustrious Premier. At what cost this time?

    260 companies are about to lose their livelihoods, and @DanAndrews we vote too.