Dutch cleaning sector improves immigrant language skills

26th of October 2012
Dutch cleaning sector improves immigrant language skills

Many workers in the Dutch cleaning sector are immigrants and special attention is being given to improving their language skills – explains ECJ correspondent Nico Lemmens of ISS.

OSB Academie is the umbrella organisation for all activities concerning training, education and courses of the Dutch association of cleaning companies. There is a broad range of activities. Topics include, among others, pension matters, leadership, industrial disability legislation, collective labour agreement, labour law, tender management, sales and analysing absenteeism.

During recent years special attention has been paid both to Dutch language skills for immigrant cleaners and illiteracy among cleaning personnel in general.

Many workers in the Dutch cleaning sector are immigrants from Turkey, North Africa, Ghana and Cape Verde. Until recently Dutch municipalities financed Dutch language courses for foreign cleaning personnel. But government cost saving programs put an end to that. Employers in the cleaning sector now take responsibility.

OSB, the cleaning employers' association, stresses the importance for cleaners to have a good command of the Dutch language. It enables them to attend cleaning courses and it helps them to integrate with other population groups. Cleaners who are in command of the Dutch language will understand instructions, can discuss work problems, can employ safe work methods and will understand the customer.

OSB works together with the Dutch Foundation for Reading and Writing. On September 3, this foundation launched a website containing information and concrete advice for employees and employers to deal with illiteracy. In the Netherlands there are 1.5 million unlettered people. About six per cent of all employees have problems reading personnel magazines, work schedules or order sheets. More than 50 per cent of all unlettered people have paid jobs.

Anybody can contribute

The foundation’s philosophy is that anybody can make a contribution to fighting illiteracy. Its campaign is directed at the business world, municipalities, the healthcare sector, the childcare sector and education.

In our present complex society, poor command of reading, writing, arithmetics and digital skills is problematic. Without these basic skills, only limited functioning in that society is possible. Being able to read instructions and safety rules is of crucial importance for safe conditions on the work floor. Reading and writing skills contribute to the personal development of people and to their participation both on the labour market and in society in general. The Dutch cleaning sector not only produces cleaning services, but also makes an active contribution to important social issues.


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