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Austria cleaning industry makes real progress25th of June 2013
Georg Lintner of the Austrian professional cleaning association writes exclusively for ECJ about the professional cleaning sector in Austria as part of our series focusing on the major countries of Europe.
In the Austrian cleaning sector there are currently 8,100 companies, employing a total of 52,000 people. The proportion of female employees is high, at 85 per cent and there is a distinct preference for workers who are over 45. Otherwise, employees range from 15 to 65. Manual workers account for 90 per cent of sector employees, with clerical staff making up the remaining 10 per cent.
The industry in Austria is still enjoying growth, despite the economic difficulties facing most European countries. In 2005 against 2000 it was 66 per cent; in 2008 against 2005, 75 per cent; and 2013 against 2008, 50 per cent. Contracts are often outsourced to third parties in the field of house cleaning and maintenance services. Where memorial, façade and external building cleaning are concerned, however, outsourcing occurs only in the case of specialist cleaning. The greatest opportunities for growth are considered to be in the health and care sectors.
There are three large companies in the contract cleaning market - ISS Facility Services, Simacek and Dussmann-Service. Together they account for around 30 per cent of market share.
The largest challenge facing cleaning companies currently is finding motivated workers – there is a significant skills shortage in the sector. To counteract this there has been massive expansion of training schemes in recent years, and there is now a recognised standard for cleaning
training schemes. Another positive development has been the Austria-wide standardisation of requirements for final apprenticeship examination and master craftsman’s diploma.
This issues of sick leave, maternity rights and parental leave are also very challenging ones for employers. However relations between cleaning workers and their employers are generally very good because of the opportunities for staff from a migrant background to engage in German courses of more than four hours.
A new collective framework agreement was also finalised this year after more than 20 years of negotiation, and that includes much improved regulations covering the whole of Austria.
Despite the significant progress made by the industry in recent years, cleaning is still in principle a necessary evil in the eyes of many clients – its image and profile are still a long way from where they should be. There is much room for improvement in terms of results-oriented cleaning and also daytime cleaning.
Clients do have a very positive attitude towards paying a fair price for the services they receive when all the staff are properly trained. But there is still a great tendency to opt for the lowest tender both in the public and private sectors.
Initiatives by the industry association and cleaning companies have resulted in a number of successful public relations and advertising campaigns in the mission to improve the image of cleaning. Still the regulatory environment presents real obstacles, along with the issue of company taxation. Companies are also now expected to react proactively to the increasing awareness of environmental issues – the ‘greening’ of the industry.
The cleaning business can also not escape the fact that both public and private clients are being forced to economise, in which case it is not always possible to provide the best service. In these cases, the service has to be adapted accordingly.
Through the Commercial Cleaning Academy of the Viennese Monument, Facade, and Commercial Cleaners association, a European training centre for cleaning workers is currently being established in Austria. For details visit the website: www.gebaeudereinigungsakademie.at