Ministry sets eight-hour shift for school sweepers/cleaners

Minister of Education Nicolette Henry listening to concerns being raised by a sweeper/cleaner

A decision has been taken for all public school sweepers/cleaners to be allowed to work a daily eight-hour shift, Minister of Education Nicolette Henry announced yesterday.

Henry, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Education, made the disclosure during a meeting with sweepers/ cleaners at the St Stanislaus College, where she also said that the previous six-hour cap on their work has been scrapped.

Henry’s meeting with the sweepers/cleaners comes just over a week after Cabinet approved a recommendation for the regularisation of the employment of sweepers/ cleaners, particularly those attached to public schools, as government moved to address longstanding issues related to the payment and conditions of service of the workers.

“Cabinet agreed that the Ministry of Education’s proposal to the Ministry of Finance in its budget presentation for 2018 would be used as the basis upon which the other agencies such as the Ministry of the Presidency, the Ministry of Social Protection and the Ministry of Finance will examine carefully the issues in relation to the sweeper-cleaners,” State Minister Joseph Harmon told a post-Cabinet press conference last week.

The ministry said Henry met with the workers to listen “first-hand” to their concerns.

In her remarks to the gathering, Henry was reported as saying that it is important that everyone is treated with dignity and respect at their place of work and the same would apply to them.

In addition to the eight-hour shifts, Henry also announced that sweepers/ cleaners will now be paid for service provided during the school holiday, since their work will be required.

Last month, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) had condemned government for what was described as an uncaring and unkind approach to the matter.

GPSU had said in a press statement in August that the conditions of the sweepers/cleaners continued to deteriorate under the current administration. The union noted that they were recently informed by head teachers that their work hours would be reduced to six hours daily, although they often require over eight hours to complete their duties. They were also told that would only be paid for two weeks in July and one week in August.

The ministry statement said that Henry assured that she will meet quarterly with the sweepers/cleaners to get their feedback and to gauge if improvements are being made with regards to their working conditions and other issues that might be affecting them.

It was noted that many of those who attended the meeting raised a number of issues and the minister has given the assurance that she will work to address them at the earliest possible time. She did , however, note that she would not be able to address some of the issues expeditiously since they involves other government agencies and would take some time to resolve.

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