Anger after opposition parties ignore meeting call

Angry and disappointed cleaning and hygiene industry leaders have hit out after opposition parties so far avoided meeting with them to discuss key and pressing sector issues.

The British Cleaning Council (BCC) wrote to the Labour, Scottish Nationalist, Lib Dem and Green parties in August but none of them have so far agreed to meet. The frustration comes after months of demands for a meeting with the Government were ignored.

While Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and the SNP did respond to the letter from BCC Chairman Jim Melvin, they both advised that contact would be made which has simply not taken place, whilst the other opposition parties failed to even respond.

The BCC is urgently calling for better recognition for the vital role of cleaning and hygiene operatives and help with severe staff shortages affecting the sector.

Cleaning and hygiene staff play a vital role in keeping people healthy, safe and well and that work has been particularly essential during the fight against Coronavirus.

The sector is one of the ten biggest in the UK, worth almost £59m and employing 1.47m people, but is suffering major recruitment and retention issues.

The BCC has also contacted the Government on several occasions since May to attempt to discuss concerns over the treatment of cleaning and hygiene staff in Number 10 during the ‘partygate’ scandal, as well as the issues highlighted above. Letters were acknowledged but no other action has resulted from them.

Jim Melvin said: “I’m angry and extremely disappointed that none of the political parties nor the Government will meet with us.

“The sector’s staff play a vital role in keeping people healthy, safe and well and because the industry is one of the ten biggest nationally, it is hugely important to the UK economy.

“So politicians of all stripes should be both interested and have a care about what is required on behalf of the cleaning and hygiene industry and the general public. Their continued lack of action would suggest that they don’t.

“Getting the chance to air the important issues facing the sector in a meeting should not be too much to ask. It is incomprehensible that we have been ignored or had false promises in this way.

“However, we don’t give up that easily. We will continue fighting to ensure the voice of the industry is heard by those in power.

“The work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the sector will also be another good channel to get our message across and, in particular, the project we are currently involved in, assisting the Government inquiry into actions taken during the pandemic.”

Sue Gray’s report into parties at Number Ten was published on 25 May and described ‘multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff’.

Jim Melvin has written and emailed Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to formally request a meeting to discuss the report findings.

The APPG for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry has begun an inquiry into the role of cleaning and hygiene during the Covid-19 pandemic, entitled Embedding Effective Hygiene for a Resilient UK.

The review aims to produce a report with policy recommendations which will feed into the national UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

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