Scottish schools need more cleaners, says UNISON report

A freedom of information request (FOI), by UNISON Scotland, across all Scottish councils has revealed confusion about the funding announced by Scottish Government for extra school cleaning. A UNISON survey, carried out in Sept 2020, also revealed that school cleaners felt they did not have enough time and cleaning materials to do their jobs properly.
The FOI revealed that whilst there has been a 13 % increase in cleaners across Scotland’s schools, only £8million has been secured from the £20 million announced at the start of re-opening for cleaning schools. A few councils have fewer cleaners than pre-COVID.
UNISON also surveyed cleaning staff in September 2020:
• only 18% of cleaners said they had enough time and the right materials to clean properly and keep themselves safe in schools.
• only 51% of cleaners said their setting was being cleaned thoroughly or regularly enough.
• only 51% of the wider staff group agreed that their setting was being cleaned enough to keep them safe.
• only 38% of the wider staff group felt that their setting had the staff resources and expertise to ensure that all health and safety and risk assessments were in place.
John Gallacher, UNISON Scotland organiser said: “Especially now as the Government intends to keep schools open across all tiers of the National Strategy, councils need to call on this fund and re-double efforts to help front line cleaners fight the virus across all school and early years premises. Professional cleaners are the key to safe workplaces as windows close, heating and ventilation systems kick in, and more time is spent indoors.”
Lorraine Thomson, chair of UNISON Scotland Education Issues Group said: “Councils have severe funding shortages due to years of chronic under-funding. Keeping staff and children safe must be the top priority and clean spaces is not an area where there can be short cuts and there needs to continued high investment. Cleaners are among many hidden heroes among council workforces and many are not even properly paid the Scottish Living Wage (£ 9.30) for their valiant efforts in fighting the virus every day.”
1. UNISON is the public services trade union, we are the biggest trade union amongst the broader education staff in schools, and we are the biggest trade union in Scotland.
2.John Swinney announcement July 2020,
3. UNISON carried out a survey of cleaners back in 2014. Dishing the Dirt which examined the cuts to cleaning services because of austerity. UNISON have been campaigning about this for some time and the pandemic shows why it’s such a vital job
Local councils which have not increased cleaner numbers
City of Edinburgh
North Lanarkshire
South Ayrshire
Tayside Contracts (who cover Perth and Kinross, Dundee City and Angus), say they have 250 more posts but are only halfway through recruiting these posts.
Only 11 councils would give us figures on the extra costs, some citing commercial confidentiality due to outsourcing others that they didn’t know yet.
Figures given add to £7.7 million but not all of this is for cleaning as even those that replied couldn’t always identify just cleaning spend. We approximating.