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Make do and mend1st of May 2012
The UK correspondent for ECJ reflects on the implications of cost cutting measures on the cleaning sector and its staff.
Despite chaos, deficits, fuel prices, Syrian disasters and more, spring has arrived as it has always done. In former times farmers said: "Please God she don’t come in crying," ie, wet. Would they say that this year? Not in the east and south at any rate.
Cleaning of course continues as always in all weathers, night and day. The contract side of the industry is to be congratulated in holding its head above water while improving standards, cutting costs and doing its bit for sustainability and green needs despite the slowdown which has fallen on so many industries. In this we can include the industry supply side where capital expenditure has been hard hit.
'Make do and mend' is the watchword at present, meaning more expense on spare parts and call-outs for service engineers. This like so many, ostensibly, money saving devices is a double edged sword. It can lead to poorer performance in cleaning terms, increased downtime and rising costs that follow lack of capital as night follows day; a point made in the Business section of The Daily Telegraph recently.
Mention was made in an article in this journal last month of the improved performance and staff retention as a result of paying what is described as a ‘living wage’. There was an implication that companies were cutting costs by reducing working hours and making workers redundant while passing the gains made in this way to the owners or shareholders. If this were the case then there are clear ways to deal with it.
The first is excess profits tax not seen since the second world war, and the second is to increase capital allowances to ensure competitiveness and purchase of new equipment. Nevertheless the unrelenting assault politically and in the media continues on any company or individuals that appear to be making money. While there are people who will rob and cheat their fellows at all levels of society, the majority who commit what is now the sin of making a success of their business achieve it by hard work and going the extra mile.
Story not the substance
Overriding all these good intentions are political considerations and the presentation and the fascination in the media for the ‘story’ but not the substance. We are fed headlines without facts, news of prospects of strikes and civil disobedience, the total collapse of the NHS and mortgage rises but very few accurate figures to allow a balanced view to be taken. The government, like a head office, is there to take the blame. Are they to blame? Quite often yes, or at least the politicians. Time and again inaction follows fine rhetoric.
We are told that 60 per cent of cleaning staff in London are immigrants. It said they work harder than the British and that in any case "the British won’t do the job". We have over 2.5 million unemployed people yet it seems that the cleaning industry still has the wrong image to attract staff.
We were going to talk about the NHS but space considerations prevent this except to say that the ‘professional bodies’ so virulently opposed to change have nothing very much to congratulate themselves on.