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Cleaning staff deserve more respect
Sue Gray, the Second Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Office, has finally reported on the findings of her investigation into what has been dubbed 'Partygate', and while we were expecting her to dish the dirt about MPs' flouting the rules they put in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19, we didn't expect to learn that the cleaners had not been treated with respect either. Included in the 37-page report is Sue's statement that:
'I found that some staff had witnessed or been subjected to behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about but at times felt unable to raise properly. I was made aware of multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. This was unacceptable. I am reassured to see that steps have since been taken to introduce more easily accessible means by which to raise concerns electronically, in person or online, including directly with the Permanent Secretary in No 10. I hope that this will truly embed a culture that welcomes and creates opportunities for challenge and speaking up at all levels.'
Naturally, many of us in the UK's cleaning industry are angry that these important staff aren't being treated with the respect they deserve.
Jim Melvin, chairman of the British Cleaning Council, says: "At a time when many cleaning and hygiene operational staff were putting themselves at risk to maintain high standards of hygiene and ensure that key workers and the public were safe and well during the pandemic, it is absolutely appalling and upsetting to hear that they were being treated with such contempt by people who sit within Government or the civil service and who frankly should know better.
"Cleaning staff are hardworking, professional and deserve to be respected in their vital work, just like anyone one else, and certainly how the people concerned would expect to be treated.
"In some parts of the cleaning industry, the demand for increased standards of hygiene during the pandemic has combined with severe staff shortages to drive many colleagues close to breaking point.
"The Prime Minister himself thanked cleaning staff in Parliament and now we are subjected to the contents of Sue Gray's report. Which one are we to believe?
"What cleaning staff need is support and recognition from the Government, not to be treated with such arrogance or disrespect.
"In that respect, we wish to engage with the Government and actually see what the claim that steps have been taken really means in detail. We will be formally requesting a meeting to have such engagement and discussion."
The cleaning, hygiene and waste sector is one of the 10 biggest in the UK, worth nearly £59bn and employing 1.47m people.
The full Sue Gray report can be found at:
26th May 2022