Every Melbourne state school will be audited amid concerns some cleaners have had their pay cut and are struggling to do their job.
Education Minister James Merlino announced the audit after The Age revealed parents were complaining about dirty schools and some cleaners were being paid less following a controversial state government overhaul of school cleaning.
More than 120 principals have raised concerns with the department, with many reporting that their cleaning hours had been reduced.
“We have directed the Department of Education and Training to conduct an audit following the reports in The Age to ensure no cleaners are paid less per hour and all schools get the appropriate hours to ensure industry-standard cleaning,” Mr Merlino said.
“One thing we will not accept are cleaners receiving a lower pay rate.”
Mr Merlino said the school cleaning reforms were designed to stamp out the exploitation of workers.
“This is a big change and not easy – but absolutely necessary.”
Lisa Berryman, a school cleaner whose pay has dropped from $25.65 per hour to $23.49 under the changes, welcomed the audit.
“Most of the schools in my area have lost one-third of the cleaning hours they were previously provided every week,” she said.
Ms Berryman has lost seven hours of work a week, and is expected to clean 15 classrooms, 17 toilets, three urinals, 32 rubbish bins, 12 drinking fountains and 40 windows during her daily four-hour shift.
The Opposition’s small and medium sized enterprises spokesman, Neale Burgess, said hundreds of small businesses and their families were being punished by “another bungled Labor policy”.
“If Daniel Andrews and James Merlino had bothered to do this audit just 37 days ago, hundreds of Victorian small businesses would still have work and their employees would still have jobs,” he said.
Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said schools were desperate for a resolution.
“Some principals are spending a day a week trying to resolve this,” she said.
“Little kids sneeze under desks and under the old arrangements they were wiped down with antibacterial spray every night and that doesn’t happen now,” she said.
Berwick Lodge Primary School principal Henry Grossek said most schools had had their hours slashed and this was due to the Department changing its guidelines.
He said classrooms previously had to be vacuumed every day but now had to be vacuumed twice a week.
Under the changes, Melbourne state schools no longer manage their own cleaning contracts. The Education Department has torn up more than 100 contracts and replaced them with just eight.
Labor announced the changes following a long-running campaign by United Voice, the union for cleaners.