Concern about sweeping changes to cleaners' hours
LOCAL schools could receive poor marks when it comes to hygiene as cleaners' hours are scaled back.
The Department of Education and Communities' cleaning contract has prompted United Voice union, which represents cleaners, to launch a website for parents to see if their children's schools are "at risk" from a reduction in cleaning times.
Carole Kendell, a cleaner at South Grafton High School for 12 years who is also the union delegate for the Clarence Valley, said she feels the new contract will mean a drop in cleaning standards.
"When a person leaves a job, they will be replaced but the cleaning time will decrease," she said.
"I have four grandchildren who attend schools in the Grafton area.
"One is asthmatic and now there are carpets in every room, I'm concerned levels of asthma and sickness levels will increase as cleanliness goes downwards.
"We (cleaners) want more time, not less."
The union website shows 11 hours of cleaning will be cut from Grafton Public School, eight hours from South Grafton Public and five hours from Maclean Public in 2012-13.
Mrs Kendell said cleaners are given between 12 and 15 minutes per room and this is calculated per square metre rather than considering the content of a classroom.
"I clean five computer areas and the library and no extra time is given for that cleaning," she said.
"It's the same time as, say, sweeping a hall."
A spokesman from the Department of Education said there would be no change to the cleaning standards under the five-year contract, which began in July 2011.
"To make the cleaning of schools more efficient, the benchmark cleaning rate established under the new Cleaning Contract is 400 square metres per hour, average across all government schools," he said.
"This compares with an average of 530 square metres per hour in Queensland schools and 430 square metres an hour in South Australian schools."
However Mrs Kendell said the cuts have been consistently coming and conscientious cleaners would be forced to rush, which would lead to a drop in standards and more potential workplace injuries.
"It's a constant battle to A, keep our jobs, or B, have the time to do our jobs.
"There used to be 10 people to clean South High, now we're down to three and a half and that's the same with all schools."