ACT school cleaners mark first week as government employees

Under the new system 270 school cleaners are now directly employed by government.

School cleaners in the ACT have completed their first week as new employees of the ACT Government.

ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry announced in April 2019 that Canberra’s public-school cleaning would be brought back in-house, less than two years after a major overhaul of the sector.

Under the new system, 270 cleaners are now directly employed by the government, instead of the work being outsourced to contractors.

Lyndal Ryan, United Workers Union spokesperson for Property Services, said bringing these jobs into the public sector has been cause for celebration among school cleaners.

“Thanks to the ACT Government’s decision to backsource these jobs, our school cleaners have been removed from the trouble and scandal plagued contracting system. The union had been fighting for our members for years as contractors working in our schools were routinely found to be committing wage theft, exploiting workers and failing to meet the needs of schools.

“We hope this successful backsourcing is just the start of wider change for workers in insecure contracting jobs across Australia. To ensure services are delivered where they are needed we need to see more and more jobs being brought back into public hands.

“Many ACT school cleaners are migrant workers and too many have been exploited in the past by cleaning contractors in a race to the bottom. Bringing the jobs back to direct government employment is a great way forward for these workers who are normally locked out of secure public sector jobs. We congratulate our members for fighting for many years to win secure jobs and to be treated with respect.”

Jim Stanford, economist and director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, also welcomed the move to backsource the jobs of ACT school cleaners.

“When services are outsourced to the lowest bidder, the companies inevitably cut corners both in the quality of services and how workers are treated.

“By directly employing these staff and guaranteeing decent wages and conditions, the ACT Government is promoting safer, fairer workplaces.

“Just choosing the “cheapest” bids does not necessarily save taxpayers anything, if the pursuit of lower costs imposes expensive social consequences (like low wages and precarious jobs) that inevitably blow back on government.”

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