Cleaners speak out against hours cut

The cleaners put forward a resolution at the Victorian Labor’s State Conference (supplied).

Zoe Moffatt

Two long-serving school cleaners spoke at Victorian Labor’s State Conference at the weekend, demanding an end to a privatised school cleaning system that has seen cleaners’ hours cut and in some cases wages more than halved.

This demand stems from the major shake-up of cleaning contracts, in which the state government awarded school cleaning contracts to Serco and Tradeflex for 2024, slashing cleaners hours across Melbourne’s north-west.

The cleaners put forward a resolution at conference, condemning the state government’s decision to maintain privatised cleaning contracts across government schools, impacting more than 3000 cleaners.

Speaking after the conference, United Workers Union property services director Lyndal Ryan said they were there to tell the Education Minister Ben Carroll that he needs to listen to the cleaners and union.

“We’re angry, we’re upset … we will never give up our campaign,” Ms Ryan said. “We need Ben Carroll to fix this mess.

“He needs to listen to us, we’re not going to sit there passively … he needs to listen to us, he needs to listen to the cleaners.”

The cleaners’ resolution states that it’s “reprehensible that this Victorian Labor government has stood by and allowed the companies that they pay to clean our schools (to) cut the hours and pay of workers”.

“[They] went into Christmas 2023 with no public holiday pay (and) having their hours cut, pay slashed and conditions lost for 2024, with some workers losing up to 60 per cent of their income.

“One example is a Union Member having their wage cut from $49,000 in 2023 to $19,000 for this year.”

Ms Ryan said the state government should not privatise essential government services.