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General assembly sets priorities15th of June 2010
UNI Property Services, the global trade union for cleaning workers, held its general assembly in Switzerland recently to discuss its strategic priorities for the coming year. The affiliates discussed socially responsible public procurement, professional illness and third party violence, and equal opportunities.
Socially responsible public procurement is seen as a priority topic but the unions say they are facing opposition from employers who say that during the recession it is impossible to suggest this approach to clients. Participants concluded that better inter-union collaboration on a local, national and European level and a broad and stronger regulatory environment should be key objectives. Suggestions were also made to use European Works Councils (EWCs) as a platform to raise this issue and to introduce social levies on companies not respecting labour and social laws.
The working groups also agreed on the need to convince employers about the cost benefits of implementing effective policies to tackle professional illnesses and third party violence. Harassment was also raised as an important issue to be faced given the high majority of women and ethnic minority workers in the property services sector. Better implementation of existing health and safety legislation and monitoring by trade unions were identified as key objectives.
Discussions surrounding equal opportunities focused on issues facing women workers such as lack of child care, unsocial hours, low wages and in particular the low status image associated with the cleaning sector. Pregnant workers often suffer from lack of social protection and undocumented workers and migrant workers are often at a disadvantage due to a lack of knowledge about local labour laws and rules as well as a low level of literacy and language skills.
Participants concluded that the sector's image must be improved and it should be regarded as a skilled profession. They also agreed trade unions need to play a role in protecting undocumented and migrant workers by providing them with information and representation.