The Law of Unintended Consequences – School Cleaners

Published May 30, 2018 | By

The Andrews Government has terminated school cleaning contracts with little respect for the hard work of school cleaners done over the last 20 years.

Whenever a “big decision” is made, there are always winners and losers.

As cleaning contractors, we live and breathe in an industry where business comes and goes. By definition contracts are like that.

People who try to do good things sometimes end up doing bad things.

On the 30th of June this year, what was supposed to be a good thing, will turn out to be a bad thing. You see, the Department of Education in Victoria were CONviNcED into believing that all school cleaners were being paid incorrectly. It is true, that some have been paid incorrectly and others exploited in other ways. Responsible and ethical employers agree that cleaning up the industry is necessary. The response should be a sensible reform.

The Government’s way to make changes is to consolidate the cleaning of nearly 1200 schools in the Greater Metro Area and the Mornington Peninsula to create 8 super contracts. Their naive belief, that in doing so, they will be gaining control and providing surety of wages and conditions for the school cleaners.

This is where the Law of Unintended Consequences kicks in.

There are 270 or so cleaning contractors, currently holding contracts for those schools. Some of these cleaning contractors are micro businesses, Mum and Dad operators, some larger and some in between. Each of these businesses is supposed to be supported by a State Government, that says “it is FOR small business”, yet on the 1st of July this year, some of these school cleaners businesses will cease to exist, some will struggle in the short term and may recover, some will never recover.

This government has brought a gun to a knife fight! Rather than being a responsible, considerate, thoughtful, innovative and supportive executive, they have taken a baseball bat and terminated all school cleaning contracts.

Not to be melodramatic, but there will be blood on the streets, as some business owners who are in such distress will take the most drastic of actions and end their lives, many will lose their homes. Many of the companies, who are currently providing services, have procured materials and other equipment to carry out work that will no longer exist. Incredibly and dispassionately, when these issues were raised with Department of Education staff, one of the suggestions given to them to recover their costs was to “sell the equipment on Ebay”. With great respect, used cleaning equipment is about as valuable in the marketplace as an analogue phone or dial-up internet is. To Mr Andrews, Mr. Merlino and your merry band of sympathisers, a great big thank you! Not. Your legacy will long be remembered for ruining people’s lives.


The note below is from the Principal, of one of the schools we clean, and was in response to our exit plan for the school. This sentiment has been expressed in writing to us several times over the past 6 months.

Thank you for your email with your proposals for the organisation and conclusion of duties of Sebastian Property Services, at […] Primary School.  

We have been extremely happy with the services that you have provided to our school and we have greatly appreciated and enjoyed the good working relationship we have had with your company.  The cleaning staff have provided a high standard of cleaning and have been very responsive to any requests that have been made of them. The excellent service and dedication of Effie Madafferi has been outstanding and we sincerely thank her for her friendly, hard-working and thorough approach to her work. Please pass on our sincere thanks to all your staff for a job well done.  We wish you all the very best for the future.