A discussion with John Austen this morning about whether he should put this week’s story ‘Strike averted as cleaners win inflation-busting pay rise’ into the side column as he felt it was “a bit militant” reminded me of a discussion I had with the British Institute of Cleaning Science’s Stan Atkins at the Cleaning & Support Services Association’s Annual Luncheon last month. Stan showed me an advert he’d seen in that morning’s newspaper, placed by a well-known, award-winning cleaning contractor. The work? Cleaning operatives required for 10hr shift the following weekend in central London – all training provided. The pay? £20.19 an hour – and it wasn’t even overnight. It was a day shift!
Yes John was right about the story sounding a bit militant. However, our discussions made me ponder on the difference between professional contractors who do our industry proud and look after their employees and those who’ve damaged our industry by employing folk who aren’t supposed to be working in the UK, making them work under the most awful conditions and paying them way under the statutory rate.
Most of the professional contractors I speak to value their staff and want to ensure they have a decent standard of living, (impossible on £9.50/hr unless others in the household are earning well) and they’re doing all they can to meet Living Wage Foundation standards. Also these days, contractors are having to pay above what the statutory rate demands anyway because otherwise, they can’t get the staff - and while the staff they do have, can often cover for missing colleagues for a period, working double or triple shifts just isn’t sustainable. Something needs to be done – and fast – to rectify the difficult situation in which our industry finds itself.
And let’s not forget the heat! Local councils across much of the UK are warning us that our street cleaners and refuse collectors will have to work more slowly in this heatwave and that our bins may not be emptied on the correct day. News outlets have been telling us how to stay safe in the heat and many of us who can work from home, are doing so. Looking at the weather reports from across the Continent I can see that this type of message is likely to have been echoed all over. It highlights once again just how indispensable our cleaners are, for while many of us are able to adapt to the problems the heat brings, the cleaners really just have to carry on, don’t they?