If you are a cleaner in a school, you are an essential worker employed by a government funded institution – yet you do not have the entitlement rights of others in the same workplace. Is that unfair? Yes! The Department must change the system to eradicate this inequality.
I raised this important workers’ rights issue with the Minister of Education, asking for her views on whether cleaners are critical staff in the running of schools and whether she plans to provide pension rights to long-term service cleaners.
I did not get her views as a response, I got the same old chapter and verse of what the rules are now – cleaners don’t work for the Department of Education, they work for the school. This is an abdication of responsibility.
We have heard this bogus argument before regarding school secretaries and caretakers. Recently, the government finally agreed to sit down for talks to regularise their pay, conditions of employment and pension provision.
The absolutely vital role that cleaners have always played in schools is even more crucial during Covid-19. Yet, they, like many others are undervalued workers in our public services. They are critical components of our education system and deserve to have that rightly reflected in their work and pay conditions.