Seven Illawarra schools will have their weekly cleaning hours cut under a NSW government plan to reduce education spending, a move the cleaners' union says will lead to dirty classrooms and unhygienic toilets.
Balarang, Corrimal, Corrimal East, Kemblawarra and Thirroul Public Schools, as well as Kiama High School and Para Meadows will have cleaners' hours reduced by between two and nine hours a week this financial year.
Corrimal Public School will be the worst affected with cleaning reduced to 25 hours a week, down from 34 hours.
United Voice union secretary Mark Boyd said cleaners were worried this would put students' and teachers' safety at risk.
"The real concern is that this leads to unhygienic schools ... and at some point there is the real question of sending kids into classrooms that, potentially, cleaners don't have time to properly clean," he said.
More than 600 NSW schools will have cleaning hours reduced this year and Mr Boyd said contracts allowed for more cuts over the next five years.
An education spokeswoman said the cuts were designed to make school cleaning "more efficient".
"The benchmark cleaning rate established under the new cleaning contract is 400 square metres per hour, averaged across all government schools," she said.
Mr Boyd said this rate was unrealistic and did not account for the age of classrooms or complexity of different schools.
"Sure, you can probably vacuum a 400-square-metre classroom in less than an hour but throw the desks in on top of that and it gets more difficult," he said
"Then you've got to move furniture, and you've got to clean computers, empty rubbish bins, clean the toilets and do the yards."
Mr Boyd said a cut of nine hours would potentially cost two cleaners at Corrimal Public School 4.5 hours work a week.
"The expectation is that what they've been cleaning in 34 hours they now have to do in 25 hours," he said.
"That's a drastic cut. You've got to think something gives and you would have to start skipping what has to be cleaned or start missing stuff."
The education department said it was committed to keeping schools clean, with contractors having to guarantee no drop in cleanliness or employment conditions of cleaners.
"The department and NSW Public Works will closely monitor the implementation of the cleaning plans to make sure that cleaning standards are not compromised," the spokeswoman said.