Sector to be proud of

25th of November 2010

How will badly paid cleaning staff be affected by government cuts, asks ECJ's UK correspondent.

Cuts! Cuts! Nothing but cuts. On the television, on the radio, in the Press. A torrent of ill informed politically motivated material which makes money for a few but not for many. It is said that the government talked with the BBC about presentation of the cuts to the people. Whatever was said had as much effect as a pea fired at a tank. What did the government expect? This is a story and an opportunity for the chattering classes and disgruntled politicians to vent their spite under the guise of offering sound advice. After 70 years some actually accept that we must change and quickly. The world does not owe us a living, nor does the taxpayer.

What has this to do with the cleaning industry and those who work in it? The answer is a great deal. We have some of the lowest paid workers who might be hardest hit by the cuts except for the fact the money earned from cleaning may not be the only source of the family income. Yet our industry is entitled to three cheers because whatever abuse it gets, whatever the weather, however much the budget is cut, it still gets on with it.

Is it this more than anything that distinguishes the cleaning industry from other industries? They get on with it and do not moan. The well paid train drivers over and underground, their overpaid aggressive union leaders. Civil servants facing the loss of some pension income and the admitted risk of losing their jobs where two or three are gathered together to do a job which one person in the private sector could do and does.

Are these people suffering as the people in the Congo, Rwanda or Mexico suffer? You would think so. Supermarkets earn credit for increasing profits in these difficult times but some of what they offer the discerning British consumer is produced by people earning 45 pence per day.

When some state aid is removed the immediate media driven reaction is not to ask are we going to avoid debt and make plans to replace what has been taken away. It is to moan, write to the local MP or the BBC, carry placards in demonstrations or take part in strike action. The trade unions basking in the spotlight of news interviews having their opinion canvassed and occasionally offered as tablets of stone. Financial experts, mostly the ones who failed to warn of the recession, are wheeled on to have their say.

The British Cleaning Council (BCC) is on record as agitating for better pay for the workers in the industry but apparently without consideration of financial constraints or profitability. There is a whole can of worms here which includes some unanswered and may be unanswerable questions. Why are workers poor? Is it lack of education/skills? Are they taken advantage of by the bosses? Do they have the mental capacity and intestinal fortitude to make advantage for themselves? Are the opportunities there?

The cleaning industry can stand tall. It took TUPE on board; it has a race relations record second to none; it is innovative and it works 24 hours a day. If the BCC represents the cleaning industry let it shout it loud: “Our industry is an example to the country. We are not a music hall joke. We are professionals doing a professional job and we are entitled to be treated as such.”


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