Local authorities break promises

16th of June 2023 Article by Christian Bouzols
Local authorities break promises

The French association FEP is unhappy about the value of public contracts, reports Christian Bouzols.

For some time now, the French cleaning federation (FEP) has been complaining to the public procurement authorities that they haven’t kept their promises to increase the value of their cleaning contracts.

n the context of the government’s intention to re-visit the issue of wage increases in the aftermath of the pension reform act - which is still causing social disturbances in France - leaders of the federation used the opening of the Europropre show in Paris in April to remind the authorities that they had failed to honour the commitments they had made at a conference 18 months ago.

The authorities involved are all the public bodies that outsource cleaning services. The stakes are therefore quite considerable.

In September 2021, the social partners of the cleaning sector met with representatives of both public authorities and of private sector clients at a ‘progress conference’ sponsored by the  labour ministry, then headed by Elisabeth Borne, who has since become prime minister. The purpose of that meeting was to discuss ways to increase the income of cleaners and the appreciation of their work at a time when it was expected that there would soon be an end to the Covid pandemic. During which cleaners had proved to play an essential role during successive lockdowns.

At that conference there was much talk of putting an end to low cost procurement practices by buyers engaged in highly competitive tendering processes, all this to the detriment of the wages and working conditions of cleaners. During the meeting, cleaning sector employers committed themselves to increasing the wages of their cleaners, while the purchasers of cleaning services promised that they would carry out equivalent increases in the value of their procurement contracts. Unfortunately, they have hardly moved towards keeping their promises in the ensuing 18 months.

Wages have increased, but not the value of contracts

“I’m most disappointed at the poor outcome of this progress conference. On our side, we’ve increased our wages, but on the other side the monetary value of public cleaning contracts has been constantly reduced,  and this has been made worse by the inclusion of ever increasing requirements in contractual specifications,” lamented Philippe Jouanny, president of the FEP.

Increased costs

In the latest round of negotiations, it was planned to increase wages by 11 per cent in two yearly increases of 5.5 per cent, ending in 2023. But during that time, inflation has caused a rise of 16 per cent in the cost of products and equipment, “a situation which is difficult to keep up with bearing in mind that the average profit margins in the sector are about three per cent”, explained Jouanny.

The opening of the Europropre show in Paris allowed the players in the cleaning sector to return to the issue in the hope that the media attention generated by the event will help them in their cause and prompt the buyers to move towards meeting their demands. Indeed, despite their promises, the buyers of cleaning services have hardly budged since the pandemic.

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