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20 years review13th of March 2013
During the 20 years of its existence, ECJ has produced a new approach and added to the scope of cleaning magazines, says its UK reporter. And in that 20 years the industry has seen many changes.
Many changes relevant to cleaning have had broader effects on the nation as a whole - some good, some bad and some on which the jury is still out.
Firstly Europe: 20 years ago Europe was seen as a significant player in world terms and certain countries still are. Europe today is debt ridden and saddled with the economic failings of certain states that should never have been invited to join in the first place, so ramshackle were their financial structures.
Prime minister David Cameron has spoken of a referendum on our membership, after possible negotiation and in around five years. When we joined it was presented as membership of a market driven group. Nothing said about the federation or the law. The past 20 years has given us a mass of European Directives and plentiful regulations. Will a negotiated settlement or total withdrawal affect our industry? Probably not, for cleaning goes on whatever happens.
The drop in in-house cleaning of premises has continued while professional contract cleaning has advanced steadily. The growth of FM has put pressure on the contracting industry, which has become part of the wall rather than the top brick on the chimney. This in turn has led to a number of mergers as the lucrative slices of the cleaning cake are available to fewer and stronger members.
Interest in earnings
Wages have become more of an issue as employers seek to help raise the income of their employees, while maintaining profit margins. The public interest taken in the earnings question might indicate that the cleaning industry is now considered a major power.
Alas, important as we are this remains an illusion. Although the industry gets more and better press coverage, we are still at the bottom of the heap in prestige terms. It would be nice to have more public recognition than we currently enjoy. How often are our industry leaders asked to serve on government committees? Not much has changed in 20 years.
Less blame on cleaners
The performance of cleaning companies is less pilloried in the press than it was. The blame for various hospital disasters has been diverted to the hospital management, for example. A widespread view is now that the NHS is failing in many ways but particularly at the sharp end, the care of the patients. It is not about cuts or money.
Immigration remains a contentious issue relevant to the cleaning sector. When controls on immigration are under discussion employers cry: “How can we operate without imported workers? They do the jobs the British won’t do!” Won’t do? How did we manage when there were no armies of European workers and others?