The British Cleaning Council and members write monthly columns for both Cleaning and Maintenance and Tomorrow’s Cleaning magazines. You can read recent columns below.
We fight on to make sure the industry is heard
By Jim Melvin, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC). (This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in November).
We recently contacted opposition parties to request a meeting to discuss key and pressing cleaning and hygiene sector issues but to our frustration and disappointment they, like the Government, have responded but without hard dates to meet.
I am amazed and baffled that the BCC, as representatives of one of the ten biggest industries in the UK, worth almost £59bn and employing 1.47m people, have yet to be recognised, but you only need to read and hear the ridiculously out-of-date narrative from the new Home Secretary Suella Braverman on ‘unskilled labour’ when, by the Government’s own figures in September, there were 1.26m more vacancies nationally than people to fill them and that this has risen by 59% from the 2022 January to March quarter!
They have consistently listed cleaning and hygiene as unskilled which is unimaginable at a time when Covid cases seem to be rising again and as we go into the traditional flu season.
To qualify the importance of our message, which was brought home in stark reality recently, were recent warnings of the risk of a resurgence in flu infections coinciding with a major wave of Coronavirus cases over winter to cause what is being called a ‘twindemic’.
For clarity, cleaning staff are on the frontline continuing to assist in protecting the public from this kind of risk as during the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff have focused on ensuring workplaces and public buildings remain virus-free and safe to use, with enhanced cleaning regimes and new working practices being introduced across the board, requiring staff to work with greater disinfection skills.
Yet this critical role of keeping public spaces free of viruses could be further hampered this winter by an ongoing recruitment crisis, the scale of which was recently highlighted when figures showed that the number of job postings for cleaning staff increased by 11 per cent in just one week, a higher rate than for nurses, care workers or primary school teachers.
Staff shortages could make any ‘twindemic’ worse and arguably put more lives at stake.
Perhaps the Home Secretary should consider this along with her ‘unskilled labour’ views and dreams of scheduling flights to foreign climbs.
Politicians of all stripes should be both interested and care about the industry’s concerns especially in relation to public health. Their continued lack of action more than suggests that they don’t and they are therefore arguably equally as guilty of being wholly ineffective to date in relation to our industry.
It is incomprehensible that our meeting requests have been overlooked. Getting the chance to air these important issues should not be too much to ask. We will continue to drive for what the industry requires.
The recent inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the sector has proved to be an important channel for getting our message across.
The inquiry into the role of cleaning and hygiene during the Covid-19 pandemic, entitled Embedding Effective Hygiene for a Resilient UK, is producing a report which will feed into the national UK Covid-19 Inquiry
During the inquiry, I briefed MPs very clearly on the need for recognition from Government that cleaning staff are frontline keyworkers and play a vital role in keeping people safe, healthy and well.
I also argued for Government to work with the industry to:
- review recruitment in relation to staff availability, the Immigration Act, the Apprenticeship Levy, rates and specification requirements
- develop a short-term and long-term strategy for the industry in relation to training and skills and changing cultural and social attitudes to make the profession a more attractive choice of career.
I sincerely hope those in power will hear and simply pay attention. We will continue fighting to ensure the voice of the industry is heard until they do. After all – it is their job.