Cost-cutting plans spark concern over future role of school janitors

Union officials are set to be presented with the council's new model of facilities management this week. Picture: Jeremy Stockton
Union officials are set to be presented with the council's new model of facilities management this week. Picture: Jeremy Stockton
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SCHOOLS in the Capital face being stripped of their own dedicated janitors under new council cost-cutting plans.

Union officials are set to be presented with a “new model” of facilities management as the council looks to save cash through its ongoing “transformation programme”.

But Unison’s Edinburgh branch, which represents council workers, said schools would no longer have permanent janitors – and strike action could be on the horizon as a result.

Gerry Stovin, Unison service conditions officer, said members would be left with no alternative if the changes were “as bad as we think”.

He said: “We understand that the new model going out for consultation will propose a cluster model for janitors working shifts.

“These janitors would be mobile and no longer attached to one school or community centre. This model was recently proposed and subsequently dropped in Glasgow, amid concerns about security and health and safety.”

Mr Stovin said a “cluster” approach would likely see janitors moving between a main secondary school and a group of four or five other primaries, without a permanent base.

The city council said all services were being reviewed in its transformation programme.

A spokesman said: “We are committed to transforming all council services to ensure they are more efficient and effective. A new delivery model for facilities management will be presented to the trade unions tomorrow before a consultation starts at the end of May.”

Mr Stovin said no decision on striking would be taken in Edinburgh until they had seen “concrete proposals”.

But he added: “For decades, we have all gone through our education with a school jannie along with the cooks, cleaners and crossing staff who form an essential part of our school system.

“We are asking parents and our members to challenge candidates in the council elections as to whether they will oppose plans to cut these services.”

Earlier this year more than 100 janitors walked out in Glasgow in a dispute over pay, with Unison saying their members wanted extra pay for carrying out tasks which were dirty or unpleasant.

Conservative councillor and education spokesman Jason Rust said it was “disappointing” the proposals hadn’t come out earlier.

He said: “I can see a lot of questions coming out of it – there’s a lot of clarity needed.

“There’s a lot of questions around it and I think the detail would need to be thoroughly reviewed.”

Cllr Rust said school janitors were as much a part of any school as the headteacher, saying it could cause difficulties if they were “being pulled in different directions”.

He added: “I have concerns about the implementation in Glasgow. It’s really important that we learn from elsewhere and that any issues from either a union side of a parent’s side are ironed out before any forging ahead with this policy.

“It may seem to be a reduction in cost but in actual fact it could end up costing more.”