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You have, by now, probably read the article ‘Bullying, low wages and no paid holiday: five British cleaners on their jobs’, that appeared in a recent article of The Guardian and featured cleaners sharing their experiences of working in this industry. If you haven’t, see: www.theguardian.com/society/2015/oct/19/five-cleaners-tell-their-stories
As one might expect, the article paints a dire picture of our industry (it would have been nice to have included some cleaners who don’t feel exploited), but as usual it was the comments left by readers that held the most fascination for me.
One said an employer often pays differently according to the contract, i.e. minimum wage on one and living wage on another, and that the same company will offer career development under one contract but not under another. That concept had never occurred to me but thinking about it now, it makes sense, because some clients will pay enough to enable cleaners to earn the living wage and take holidays, while others won’t… and of course this difference will reflect on the pay and conditions the cleaners enjoy or endure. But how awful for friends or family members who may work for the same company but on different contracts, where one might have great working conditions and the other toils for the bare minimum!
Do most contractors pay like this or do they average out the pay across all contracts, I wonder?
Contractor Saints Cleaning argues that the problem arises from tenders which force contractors to quote rock bottom prices. He says: “I choose not to enter these price war battles, and am thus able to pay staff a fair rate. Companies and local authorities need to realise that the cheapest supplier will generally pay the lowest wages. It's not rocket science...”
Another poster responds, saying: “I get the impression that your 'race to the bottom' largely exists because it's difficult to measure the benefits (especially short-term) of deciding to pay staff comparatively well. Have you noticed any quantifiable difference, or are you running on an 'if it ain't broke' basis?”
Saints Cleaning responds with: “If you consider taking pride in one’s work, staff retention and loyalty as good attitudes to foster in a business, then I'd say it has the desired effect.”
That makes sense, doesn’t it? And I can’t help feeling that it’s not just the contractor that benefits, but the client too…
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29th October 2015