Hundreds of surveyed Victorian school cleaning contractors are being paid below award wages, cleaning union United Voice says.
Hundreds of cleaners at Victorian state schools are being paid below award wages and some don't have working with children checks, the cleaning union says.
A United Voice survey of almost 300 Victorian state school cleaning contractors found 81 per cent of them were getting paid below the award wage, with one woman paid $2.60 an hour, cash-in-hand, for her first week of work.
United Voice Victorian secretary Jess Walsh accused "fly-by-night" contractors of stealing wages, estimating the wage theft added up to $10 million a year.
A department spokesman says all allegations of non-compliance had been investigated, while schools are responsible for hiring cleaners and for ensuring contractors have working with children checks.
Ms Walsh says cleaners are regularly employed off the books for cash, and have to bring in friends and family to help get the work done.
"Hundreds of fly-by-night contractors have free rein to steal wages from some of Victoria's lowest paid workers, and use fear and intimidation to silence them," Ms Walsh said.
She also said the Victorian department is monitoring more than 700 contractors operating 1750 contracts, which she called a "recipe for disaster".
"In NSW there are just 11 school cleaning contracts across the state that its government needs to monitor," she said.
The survey found many cleaners had minimal English and did not know what they were entitled to be paid.
The department spokesman said schools are required to appoint cleaning contractors approved by the centralised School Cleaning Panel, to ensure the contractors fully comply with all regulations.
"We have investigated all allegations of non-compliance, including those made by United Voice," he said.
The department says it has recently improved the delivery of cleaning services at government buildings, including working with United Voice on the Contract Cleaning Advisory Committee.