Trade union concerns over cutbacks

27th of October 2021 Article by Lotte Printz
Trade union concerns over cutbacks

Lotte Printz reports from Denmark where municipalities are reducing expenditure on cleaning to pre-Covid levels.

Every year, more than 40,000 are admitted to hospital and 16,000 people receive ambulatory treatment in Denmark due to lower respiratory infections such as influenza, pneumonia, and acute bronchitis. Treatment that costs the Danish healthcare system 1,820 million Danish Kroner.

Taking cleaning more seriously could save society considerable amounts as this would reduce both hospital admissions and sick leave, they believe at FOA, one of the largest trade unions organising cleaning operatives in Denmark.

One should have thought that the coronavirus has taught us some valuable lessons in this respect. However, a newly published report made by Implement for FOA among Danish municipalities suggests otherwise.

Almost every single Danish municipality (there are 98 in Denmark) spent more on cleaning when the pandemic was peaking. But now, two-thirds of the 28 responding municipalities report that they have already reduced or will roll back expenditure in this field to previous levels, ie, to what it was before the coronavirus outbreak.

Cases rising

This comes at a time when all restrictions have been lifted in this country and infection rates
at Danish care homes are once again rising, despite the fact that almost all staff and residents have been vaccinated.

“It is not acceptable that the municipalities cut expenditure on cleaning, thus reducing the cleaning quality, in a situation when it is highly needed. I strongly urge the municipalities to reconsider and invest in cleaning, not just in the current situation, but in the future as well,” Pia Heidi Nielsen, chairwoman of the catering and cleaning services sector at FOA, said in a press release following the publication of the report.

Hygiene training

Her FOA colleague in charge of the social and health services sector, organising care home staff among others, backed her up. “Now is the time to bring this development to a halt. Nobody wants to see the care homes close again. But if we are to prevent this from happening, we must use all means at our disposal,” Torben Hollmann said.

Pia Heidi Nielsen further emphasised the importance of hygiene training and the need for prioritising trained cleaning staff to put down respiratory infections and praised those municipalities that actually carry on with Covid-19 best practices.

Money not spent

Shortly after the report on budget cuts had been released, another FOA article revealed that billions of Danish Kroner earmarked for welfare purposes are not being spent and are collecting dust in the municipal money boxes. Enough money, in fact, to finance an extra hour of cleaning each week for 122,500 people receiving care in their own homes.

The deputy chairman of FOA, Thomas Enghausen, calls it downright ludicrous and suggests several specific changes to the budget law that prevents this type of money being spent. Changes that FOA likes to see implemented in the said law which is about to be revised this autumn.

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