United Voice, the cleaners union, alongside the Education Minister, Yvette Berry, announces the insourcing of school cleaning work – a historic decision for Canberra’s school cleaners. School cleaning jobs will change from precarious to secure government employment when insourcing commences late January 2020.

Lyndal Ryan, United Voice ACT Branch Secretary says, “The men and women who clean our schools deserve good, secure jobs.

“Public school cleaning services have always been delivered by contractors in the ACT. No longer will cleaners face the problem of having to go through the process of effectively applying for their own jobs when the contract companies change – generally every three years. This is tremendous news for our school cleaners and the school communities who rely on their important work.

“It’s a big win for Canberra’s school cleaners, for jobs they can count on, and fair wages and conditions.”

Karen Love is a school cleaner has worked for a number of contractors in the school that she has cleaned for 11 years. Karen says, “I cried when I heard the news. It’s a bit silly I know but it has been a long, hard road working for bosses that often degraded us, ripped us off and stole annual leave, sick leave and long service leave. Plus they stole our pride. It is wonderful to know that through our union, United Voice, the Government has heard us and will now directly employ us.”

United Voice also represents the Building Service Officers at the schools. Mark Sedgman, long standing United Voice representative and BSO says, “Building Services Officers work to ensure our public schools are safe and properly maintained. Some of our duties overlap with cleaning duties and we often work closely together. We have seen first-hand how badly some of the cleaners have been treated over the years by many unethical companies. The lack of training, proper equipment and time to do the job as well as wage theft clearly impacts on how well cleaners can do their job. The BSOs I represent are very pleased that cleaners are to be officially recognised as part of our schools through direct employment. It’s also very pleasing that my union, United Voice, is also the cleaners’ union. We can work closely together to maintain schools and be close together as fellow United Voice members.”

In order to improve compliance in the sector, the ACT Government had already reduced the number of cleaning contracts from more than 80 down to four. Prior to this move, too many school cleaners had been working in jobs plagued with wage theft, tax avoidance, court cases to fight for entitlements and dodgy sub-contracting.