The letter of the law

9th of December 2013
The letter of the law

Companies in the FM industry must adhere to correct business practices, says our UK reporter.

We have warned previously of the danger to FM companies of examples of poor not to say illegal practices. In some cases these may not be particularly serious; employees and managers make mistakes on a daily basis which are not cataclysmic.

But anything that involves racism, real or imaginary, or a health or safety issue can attract the local press and beyond this the national newspapers.

For some years past the cleaning industry has been the recipient of much abuse, particularly in hospitals, much of it generally inaccurate. This has become a  non-story replaced by the failings of so many hospitals with the anger directed at trust boards (directors are a sitting target) and nurses previously seen only as ‘angels’,  ministering to the sick.

It is in avoiding this opprobrium the FM sector needs to ensure correct management practice and constant monitoring. With unemployment as high as it is, there might well be a call for a return to direct cleaning and not by the FM company itself. Ludicrous as the idea may sound the ‘debate’ thus endangered with its sound and fury, slanted opinions and in some cases deliberate falsehoods can seriously damage the logical forward progress of the contracting industry.

Two recent cases highlight this. In the first one of the leading FM companies has allegedly swindled the government out of millions or thousands of pounds depending on which newspaper you read.

The case has yet to come to trial but alarmingly the chief executive is stepping down. Fortunately the cleaning industry is not involved but outsourcing most certainly is.

The second, a landmark ruling, where a school pupil drowned in a swimming pool, where the training and supervision was provided by an outside company. One would assume responsibility would fall on the company but the judge held that the school had a duty of care whatever arrangements were made to outsource certain services. It might well be advisable for outside suppliers to look at their contract and with the client make sure that they are operating within the law.

Much discussion about mergers: Asset Skills is to merge with the Cleaning and Support Services Association (CSSA) and the Facilities Management Association (FMA). On the face of it this should be beneficial to those organisations involved but there is doubt when one considers that Asset Skills is a government formed body, while claiming to be employer led. It is, at least in theory, not taxpayer funded but does have access to certain government monies.

Does this mean that contract cleaners as members of CSSA will have first opportunity to compete for grants and other forms of funding?  Should any government sponsored organisation be able to become a bedfellow as if it were purely commercial and not subject to any governmental control?

We leave the questions open but will return to it in due course.


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