Thousands of cleaners have won a fight for greater job security after being warned they would have to reapply for their jobs for the first time in 24 years.
The NSW Department of Finance Services and Innovation last year notified United Voice, the union representing the cleaners, that employment guarantees in place since 1994 "will not be extended in the new contracts from 2018".
Following Fairfax Media reports on the issue, the NSW Government on Sunday said it would extend job guarantees to all permanent cleaners employed under the Whole of Government Facilities Management Contract.
It means existing cleaners will not have to reapply for their jobs if there is a change of cleaning supplier in their region.
Property NSW has called for Expressions of Interest for a new contract beginning in July.
Finance Minister Victor Dominello said he has worked with United Voice and has met with many cleaners and listened to their concerns.
“Cleaners work at the coal face and without their services our schools, courts and other essential services would not run effectively,” Mr Dominello said.
“I’m pleased that we have been able to achieve a good outcome that strikes the balance between providing certainty for existing cleaners and the need to deliver a more equitable allocation of resources.”
Mr Dominello said he is committed to working with United Voice to implement “smarter work practices and rigorous auditing through the use of digital technology”.
“The government will work with United Voice and the suppliers to ensure high standards are maintained across the industry,” he said.
United Voice NSW branch secretary Mel Gatfield said more than 6000 school cleaners were just months away from having to reapply for their jobs on short-term contracts without any guarantee of hours or job security and with no transfer of entitlements.
The workforce cleans 2,211 NSW schools as well as TAFE colleges, courthouses, government offices and ambulance, police and fire stations.
“School cleaners in New South Wales now have jobs they can count on,” Ms Gatfield said.
“The start of the 2018 school year has been an anxious time for our state’s school cleaners with their jobs on the line.
“The government and Minister Dominello have now listened to our cleaners and guaranteed job security.”
Ms Gatfield said NSW school cleaners had locked in a job guarantee for cleaners, a guarantee on work hours, under the Berejiklian government’s new cleaning contracts and protection of entitlements including rostered days off, RDOs.
Single father of seven children, Arou Akot, is among school cleaners who feared losing his job this year.
A South Sudanese migrant, he has worked for more than eight years as a cleaner at three schools in western Sydney.
He told Fairfax Media he earns about $1500 a fortnight in the hand and pays $1020 a fortnight in rent.
His work day is split across two shifts from 4.30am to 9am and 2pm to 6pm and he said he was often too busy to take a 10-minute break.
“We need a job guarantee,” he said. “If I don't have a job, I will be homeless."
In a United Voice statement, primary school cleaner Alison Redman said: “We're all so relieved that we now have job security and our hours guaranteed, and can go back to taking care of our schools”.