Tasmania school cleaners take industrial action

Two schools in the state's north-west have closed this week due to health concerns relating to the work bans. 

Education facility attendants (EFAs) in Tasmania picketed outside a local high school yesterday after failing to negotiate a wage rise with the state government.

It follows the closure of two schools in the state’s north-west, Ulverstone Secondary College and Wynyard High, as the result of health concerns relating to the work bans.

For the past three weeks EFAs have implemented work bans in Tasmanian schools, which include no rubbish removal from classrooms, no vacuuming, no picking up litter in school grounds, and no cleaning of sinks and floors.

Tasmanian branch secretary of United Voice Jannette Armstrong, said the action was taken in response to the failure of the government to bargain with EFAs for a fair wage agreement.

“EFAs have been financially impacted by the 2 per cent wages cap for too long,” Armstrong said.

“It is insulting that the Premier offered EFAs 2.1 per cent. To only offer this wage rise amount for a one year period extends the insult. This government’s wages policy has been unfairly impacting EFAs, some of the lowest paid public sector workers in Tasmania, for too long.”

The cleaners’ union alleges that many of EFAs have not received a pay rise in 18 months.

“EFAs do not take this action lightly. They deserve respect, job security, and a decent pay rise. Schools won’t be able to function and open their doors without EFAs on board – because our EFAs play a crucial role in ensuring safe, healthy and clean learning environments.”

Treasurer Peter Gutwien has deemed the work bans as “unsafe and dangerous”, with the principal and Department of Education closing Ulverstone Secondary College due to health and safety concerns this week.

“This is a disgraceful escalation of industrial action targeted at disrupting student learning and families,” Gutwein said.

Temporary cleaners will be used to complete cleaning duties to ensure the school remains a safe environment for students and staff.

The government has said that should further work bans lead to the closure of any other school, cleaners refusing to undertake their duties will be stood down, without pay.

“This latest union led escalation of work bans reinforces the decision by government to have wage negotiations arbitrated by the Tasmanian Industrial Commission,” said Gutwien.

“While the government has endeavoured to negotiate with union leaders in good faith, it is clear their priorities remain stunts and disrupting everyday Tasmanians.”

The work bans include bans on the following tasks:

  • Removal of rubbish from classrooms
  • Changing light globes
  • Distribution of deliveries
  • Mowing lawns
  • Weeding
  • Picking up litter in school grounds
  • Cleaning glass (internal and external)
  • Cleaning sinks
  • Cleaning any floor surfaces
  • Cleaning College or TAFE vehicles
  • Welding
  • Using personal mobile phones for school purposes
  • Using personal vehicles for school purposes
  • No vacuuming
  • No removal or moving of furniture
  • No alterations to locks & latches
  • No washing tea towels for cooking classes
  • No pruning of hedges or rose bushes
  • No painting

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