Cleaners hung out to dry

Protest at Parliament House on February 20. (Zoe Moffatt/ Star Weekly).

Zoe Moffatt

Gathered in front of parliament house, Victoria’s school cleaners, many of them from the west, united to protest a contract change which has slashed their hours and wages on Tuesday.

With the heat beating down on them, members from multiple unions proudly waved their flags and pumped their fists, calling for action from Education Minister Ben Carroll.

This follows an ongoing issue sparked by companies Serco and Tradeflex cutting contract hours and stripping cleaners of up to 60 per cent of their wage.

The companies were awarded school cleaning contracts by the state government at the end of last year.

United Workers Union executive director for property services Lyndal Ryan said the cleaners have been pushed into a disastrous situation.

“What these companies are doing, slashing hours, cutting corners, demanding hardworking cleaners to do more with less, is exactly why cleaners have been campaigning to bring an end to this failed model,” she said.

“But instead, Minister Carroll has chosen to keep this privatised system, enabling companies to profit off the Victorian taxpayer by keeping cleaners on low wages and reduced hours.

“[This has] resulted in schools being left dirty or forcing teachers to pick up the slack.”

Between speeches from cleaners and union members, the frustrated voices of many chanting ‘shame’ echoed up the steps of Parliament House.

Meanwhile driving around the city, a billboard truck called for Mr Carroll to ‘clean up this mess’.

Back on the steps protesting, school cleaner Ines Lizama said she worked as a leading hand cleaner at two schools before having her hourscut back in the changeover.

“I was devastated because I didn’t think it was going to go that far. I thought we were going to get… direct employment,” she said.

“What they have done is unbelievable. They have left everybody stranded, they haven’t got enough hours.

“I was a full timer and I’m now a part timer, and they have taken one school from me.”

As the crowd dispersed, they chanted a promise to Mr Carroll- they will be back.