Over a third of school cleaners have been injured on the job amid contractors cutting back hours, a new national survey has found.
The ‘More Tasks Than Time’ survey of 300 school cleaners, conducted by United Workers Union in late July and August, reveals cleaners are performing more than 600 tasks a day under the terms of the NSW Government’s privatised cleaning contracts – meaning less than 45 seconds for each task.
Injuries sustained on the job include “fractured kneecap from falling down stairs”, “broken wrist”, “broken fingers” and “fractured ankle”, prompting about half of contractors to cut back on cleaning hours in the last five years as a precaution.
According to the survey, 37% said they had been injured at work in the last five years, while 34% said they had experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination at work in the last five years.
A staggering 75% said workloads had become worse in the last five years, and a further 22% said workloads were “the same as always”. Just 3% said workloads had become better.
‘You get no thanks’
One school cleaner told the survey that their contractor does not allow enough time to clean their areas to a reasonable level but threatens them with warnings and dismissal if they not make sure the areas are cleaner.
“They don’t listen to my concerns or opinions about the unsafe, unreasonable requests that they give me on a weekly basis. Cleaning 14 demountable is time consuming. Moving from one demountable to the next takes time, time that I don’t get,” the cleaner said.
“Very hard and demanding and you get no thanks for what you do from the company I work for.”
To add insult to injuries, more than half of NSW school cleaners said they had even had trouble receiving the correct pay.
“As the NSW Government prepares to review NSW school cleaning contracts it’s clear the privatisation of NSW school cleaning has completely failed school cleaners and school communities,” United Workers Union Property Services co-ordinator Linda Revill said today.
“NSW school cleaners are trapped in a privatised system that lands them with impossible workloads. Workers who are expected to do more than 600 tasks in a day report serious injuries as they rush from job to job.”
‘It’s high time the failed privatisation is ended’
Revill said the survey shows the duty to provide a safe workplace has been “abandoned” by contractors as they cut back cleaning hours at schools and they give cleaners even more towering workloads.
“Cleaners also report bullying and harassment from contractors as their tasks prove unachievable. In NSW schools where members of the community should feel safe cleaners are facing dangerously high workloads daily,” Revill said.
“It’s high time the failed privatisation is ended and NSW school cleaners are employed directly by the NSW Government.”