By Brendan Rees
Michael* says he’s been able to keep his “head above water” after losing six cleaning contracts with schools across the South East in July.
In a major shake-up, hundreds of public school cleaning contracts were wiped from 1 July in a bid to stop cleaning staff being routinely underpaid and exploited by rogue operators.
“I’m one of the few that haven’t gone completely bankrupt,” he said.
Michael, who is now doing the bulk of his work with Spotless, says he’s still in the same position six months ago where he was afraid his business would go under: “I just haven’t been liquidated.”
“You just keep going, and I’m slowly clawing back a resemblance of a business,” he said.
“The taste in my mouth has been as sour as it has ever been but you carry on. You’ve got to pay for the bills or lose everything.”
Michael, who lost his contract with Cranbourne Park Primary School, says campuses across Melbourne have been left filthy under the current model. “The cleaners aren’t inducted properly; they don’t know what they’re doing.
“There’s no supervisor on site, they just throw the cleaners in there and hope for the best,” he said.
“I do little jobs for schools that ring me up because their toilets are so disgusting that they offer work for me to come in.
“It’s like half these companies have never worked at schools before,” Michael said.
When Michael asked principals what product their cleaners were using on floors, “they say ‘I don’t know come and have a look at the store room’.”
“I go into the store room and there’s two little bottles sitting in there that aren’t appropriate for the job at hand…it’s just a total shambles,” he said.
According to Michael, the schools have “nowhere to go because they can’t directly implement change,” adding, “they can only complain to the government.”
He says the State Government is “not taking any action against these contractors because to sack one contractor would mean changing the contract of hundreds of schools.”
“That’s why I’ve moved on. If I had to keep thinking about, I’d go insane,” he said.
*not his real name