Mr GIBSON (Blacktown) [6.27 p.m.]: Recently a deputation of cleaners from Blacktown Boys High School and Blacktown Girls High School visited my office to tell me of the position in which they find themselves at the moment. Tempo Services Ltd, cleaning contractors, has moved in and taken over the Government contracts for cleaning schools. Blacktown Boys High and Blacktown Girls High merged and, as a result, lost one cleaner. In cleaning hours that means 30 hours of work per week have been lost. Moreover, job descriptions have changed. The cleaning contracts are naturally outcome based but the people who visited my office believe that the standard of cleaning has declined since Tempo took over the contracts.
Most of the people concerned are middle aged and are mainly women. Most of them come from a non-English-speaking background and they take tremendous pride in their job. Some of them have been working at the schools for a number of years and on a daily basis they deliver the school to the students in a spick and span condition. The problem is that the quality of work cannot be sustained under the contracts as they have been formulated. For example, they tell me that they have nine minutes to clean a classroom, 18 minutes only to clean a laboratory, and 28 minutes to clean a kitchen. These workers are stressed, and they maintain that because of the stress under which they work, there is no time to do the chores they did prior to the contracts with Tempo. These cleaning tasks include cleaning the playgrounds and ovals. At the two schools there are a lot of gum trees, and fallen gum nuts can be extremely dangerous if children slip on them and fall. The cleaners used to clean them up, but they cannot now do that. After speaking to the cleaners I wrote to the Minister, who replied to me on 12 June in the following terms:
The Minister concluded by saying:
The cleaning contracts are outcomes-based, with cleaning standards judged by the level of cleanliness achieved rather than the hours worked by the cleaners…
Advice has been provided by [the Department of Education and Training] indicating that when last inspected, the level of cleanliness at Blacktown Girls and Blacktown Boys High Schools was very high.
Advice has been provided by DET indicating that another random inspection will be conducted at Blacktown Girls and Blacktown Boys High Schools during term two to ensure that a satisfactory level of cleanliness is being maintained.
Also on 12 June I received a letter from Noel Brackenbury, the New South Wales Teachers Federation representative on behalf of the school. He said:
Mr Brackenbury went on to say:
Despite the concerns expressed by the school and teaching staff, Tempo Services Ltd has introduced rosters that reduce the hours of cleaning at Blacktown Girls High by 15 hours per week. They conducted a two week trial of the new rosters concluding on Friday 11/5/01.
On 6/6/01 three representatives of Tempo Services attended a meeting with Edward Gavin, the Principal, and myself to review progress of the trial of the revised cleaning rosters. The Tempo representatives claimed that, despite staffing difficulties, the reduced rosters had been satisfactory.
Two conflicting answers were given to me on the same day. I asked the Minister to send an officer of the department to the schools to look at not only the standard of cleaning that has been done but to also look to see what cleaning has not been done. As I have said, the cleaners take great pride in their work. The stress that is now being put on them is tremendous, and they feel that they cannot keep up the pace. Ultimately, the people who will lose out will be the students who attend Blacktown Boys High and Blacktown Girls High. I ask the Minister to investigate the situation and ascertain if it can be rectified. [Time expired.]
The survey indicated that in most rooms a significant number of prescribed cleaning tasks were evidently not done.
While acknowledging that improvement was required, Tempo did not concede that the trial had demonstrably failed. Nor did they concede our conclusion that the removal of 15 hours cleaning had significantly reduced the cleanliness of the school.