Unite the union has today (1 February) highlighted a number of shocking stories from cleaners in Edinburgh schools due to council service cutbacks. Unite’s ‘Fight for 5’ campaign to improve cleaning standards has uncovered a number of practices that compromise health and safety due to a lack of school cleaners, and cleaning materials.

In one instance a cleaning supervisor had to visit several other community buildings to ensure a major Edinburgh high school had sufficient materials to begin an afternoon cleaning shift. Unite has been informed of cleaners being shipped from various schools across Edinburgh city in order to complete afternoon cleaning shifts. Cleaners have also complained to Unite about the lack of health and safety training, and the union has been made aware of cleaners working with machinery and hazardous equipment without any proper structured training. The union has spoken to cleaners and heard from teachers within Edinburgh schools, who are bringing in wet wipes to clean teaching tables due to the pressure being put on under-resourced and under-staffed cleaners.

Mary Alexander, Unite’s deputy Scottish secretary, said: “Unite has launched our ‘Fight for 5’ campaign to improve cleaning standards and provision in Edinburgh schools.

"Unite has heard numerous stories from cleaners across the city highlighting the lack of cleaning materials, and staff due to council cuts. Cleaners are in some instances being transported around schools to address the lack of provision. The situation is compromising health and safety standards. It is a ridiculous situation where those working in our schools have to bring in cleaning materials to compensate for the lack of cleaning staff, and also a lack of materials. We believe those pupils, parents and the general Edinburgh public deserve better.”

It is estimated that Edinburgh city council has endured £250 million of budget cuts in the last five years. It will face at least £41 million of cuts in the coming financial year and a predicted £106 million in the following three years.


For more information contact Mary Alexander on 07711237075.

Notes to editors:

Unite’s five key demands:

  1. Safe and effective cleaning materials
  2. Proper health & safety training
  3. An end to the abuse of split-shift allowance
  4. No more delays in overtime – no more unpaid holidays
  5. Stop the exploitation of temps/agency – directly employ more staff
  • Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with around 150,000 members. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.