Schools to opt out of cleaning

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ALMOST 40 Wigan school headteachers have voted with their mops and taken responsibility for school cleaning.

Their decision follows Wigan Council’s decision to privatise its cleaning service by awarding the contract to operator ISS from next month.

The contract was previously undertaken by MetroFresh, the council’s in-house building cleaning service. As a result, 240 employees will now transfer to ISS.

Schools which have delegated budgets are able to decide on how to spend their own money. And the Wigan branch of the union Unison expects more schools to opt out once the new cleaning arrangements are put in place.

Branch Secretary of Wigan Unison Carol Coltman, who represents the cleaners, said: “We are told that some of the schools were unhappy with the proposal from ISS and the fact that there would be a loss of cleaning hours.

“Instead, they preferred to directly employ their cleaning teams in order to have control of what happens within their own schools.”

“ISS has already indicated to Unison and the council that there could be cuts to cleaning hours in schools.

“This has obvious implications for our members and given that the workforce is predominantly female and low-paid, this is totally unacceptable.”

She pointed out that under the transfer of staff undertakings regulations, the TUPE laws state that staff should be protected when services are transferred from one employer to another.

Unison believes cutting hours may be unlawful and is seeking top level legal advice before deciding their next steps.

Council Interim Director of Skills, Education and Community Support Stuart Smith said: “The school cleaning contract was awarded to ISS as part of a competitive tendering process that the council is legally obliged to undertake.

“As part of this process the council must opt for the bid that provides the best value against a strict set of criteria.

“The majority of larger schools remain within the contract, with 37 choosing to delay their decision or retain the service in-house. Council officers agreed this transfer with ISS to allow schools to delay their decision and enter the arrangement at a later date when they have had more time to consider the arrangements offered for their site.”