By Bonny Burrows
Changes to Victoria’s school cleaning contracts have been criticised locally for disadvantaging smaller family-owned businesses.
Effective next year, state school cleaning reforms will see regions across Melbourne divided into eight zones, with a single cleaning contract awarded for all schools in each.
Regional Victoria will follow suit shortly after.
The State Government believes the changes will ensure schools get “consistent, high quality services and cleaners are paid properly” after multiple investigations into underpaid and mistreated staff in the past 12 months.
However not everyone is convinced.
Member for Bass Brian Paynter said locally, there were no concerns regarding school cleaning contracts in their current form.
“This is a case of trying to fix something that is simply not broken. These changes have come out of the blue,” Mr Paynter said.
The MP, who is the son of a former school cleaner, said the changes would be detrimental to local jobs and the relationship schools had with their cleaning companies.
“The new model will ensure that small cleaning businesses have no chance of winning school contracts and current cleaners will lose their jobs,” Mr Paynter said.
“Currently schools have direct control of school cleaners, and all I have spoken to are very happy with their cleaners.
“These cleaners are generally mums and dads, local people working for local schools. There’s just no reason for the changes.”
A local principal, who asked not to be named, said they also saw no need for the reforms.
The principal said the concerns raised by the government “genuinely aren’t an issue here”.
“The company we use does a number of smaller schools. When we put out the tender we avoided the bigger companies because we wanted that personalised service,” they said.
“Now we’re losing control of the decision-making.”
Education Minister James Merlino said the new model would create consistent, high quality standards across all government schools.
“Cleaning staff are valued members of our school communities, and this new model will strengthen their working conditions and make sure they get a fair deal,” Mr Merlino said.
“This new model will ensure schools get high quality cleaning services, principals are better supported to look after their schools and cleaners are treated fairly.”