–sweeper/cleaners happy the long wait is over for full-time contracts
HAVING lobbied for years for the right to be considered regular employees at public institutions and receive similar benefits, sweeper/cleaners at public schools are celebrating government’s recent decision to immediately offer full-time contracts with gratuity.
For many, the long wait has come to an end, paving the way for more spending power and a better quality of life.
Over the years, sweeper/cleaners have been employed and paid at public schools under arrangements that did not see then receiving many of the benefits that are enjoyed by the regular public servants. These benefits include salary increases and bonuses, leave with pay, leave passage and the payment of National Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions.
They are now looking forward to these benefits. Many have questioned the lack of these benefits as they work just as hard as the other public servants.
“Many times I go home late after 5’ o clock. Sometimes night catch me on the road,” one sweeper/cleaner at a school in Region One recently told this publication as she shared some of her experiences on the job.
The job has also seen her developing some medical complications, the woman said.
“The dust does affect me bad. My skin get some rash, but I’m still coming. Right now my skin get some rash, some terrible itch. I’m taking some medication that doctor gave to me, and he give me some injections,” the mother of six explained to this publication.
Noting that she has been employed at the school for the past four years, the cleaner shared that she has not received any annual leave in the four years she has been there.
She hopes that this new change will bring relief, as the sweeper/cleaners will now be recognised as official employees.
“Since I’m working for the past four years I never get a leave, is only sometimes when I sick I would take a day,” she said.
It was earlier this month that the President, Dr. Irfaan Ali announced, that the Cabinet had instructed that the sweeper/cleaners, most of whom are women, to be employed on the full-time contract-gratuity basis at the public service minimum wage level.
This was done in order for steps to be taken to regularise the manner in which sweeper/cleaners are employed and paid at public schools.
Government made the announcement in a press release last week. It was explained that the decision brings to closure a long outstanding matter which has affected this category of workers in the public school system, and forms part of the government’s ongoing efforts to improve the conditions of employment of public sector workers.
Over the years, the sweeper/cleaners have emphasised how unfairly they are being treated.
“Growing up I never really like sweeper cleaner but I say it’s a job and I hold on to it,” commented another public school cleaner from Mahdia.
She added: “It’s very good for me. It’s [the job] helping me in a way, with me and my children and my family. Sometimes when I get paid, it helps me with buying the groceries and paying bills and [I] have money for the children.”
She has worked as a cleaner at a nursery school for the past three years, and believes the job she does deserves to be respected. She said too that all sweeper/cleaners need to enjoy the same benefits as other employees.
“I feel like as cleaners we were being let down. We deserve to be paid the money. We do a lot of hard work, especially when the children make a lot of mess. I used to feel left out, and I feel real down sometimes when I see others get a certain amount of money when December come and then we don’t get nothing Sometimes you feel like give it up, but I hold on,” she shared.
“I say we are supposed to get it so why leave us out as school cleaners. I say they supposed to give we it. So I am glad now that we will be able to get it. It will benefit me a lot. With the money you get I could buy something that I need. You can do a little more, and you can put up a little more. I think it will benefit me a lot,” she added.