Keir Starmer’s words about cleaning staff ‘need to be backed by action’

The leader of one of the UK’s biggest and most important industries has responded to Keir Starmer’s speech at Labour Conference yesterday, in which he referred to ‘No more cleaners mocked, as they scrub mess off the walls of illegal parties in Westminster’.

Delia Cannings, Chair of the British Cleaning Council, said: “While it is pleasing to hear Mr Starmer highlight the shocking way cleaning staff were treated at Downing Street during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, his words need to be backed by action should his party win the next election, or they risk being empty political posturing.

“Our industry is calling for recognition for the vital, frontline work that skilled and professional cleaning staff do in keeping the public safe, health and well and for cleaning and hygiene to be made a national priority in order to save lives.

“We want the Labour party to commit to adopting the recommendations of last year’s MPs’ report, Embedding Effective Hygiene for a Resilient UK, should they come to power, or they are gambling with people’s lives.

“The report’s recommendations will make the UK more resilient to current common infections such as flu and also better prepared for future public health emergencies – like a future pandemic. The recent rise in Covid cases highlights how hugely important it is that we learn the lessons of the pandemic.

“We have written to Mr Starmer’s office previously to ask to discuss key industry issues, but without success, and we will ask again for an urgent meeting with his team.”

The BCC is the voice of the cleaning, hygiene and waste industry. It is a trade association with 21 member organisations from across the sector. Its research shows that the sector is a UK top ten industry, employing 1.47 million people and worth £59bn.

The industry came together earlier this year to campaign in support of the report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry, published last December, entitled Embedding Effective Hygiene for a Resilient UK report, which made the recommendations summarised below:

  • The establishment of a joint Government-industry preparedness team to plan for public health emergencies.
  • Minimum levels of cleaning materials and equipment to be agreed and made available in readiness.
  • Thought to be given to how to increase production during a public health emergency.
  • Key frontline worker status must be bestowed upon cleaning operatives and staff working in supply and manufacturing if a pandemic happens.
  • Urgent consideration to be given to making cleaning staff eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa scheme.
  • Minimum standards for hygiene infrastructure and cleaning in diverse venues to be agreed.
  • A standard qualification for cleaning to be developed within the Apprenticeship Levy.
  • Training budgets for cleaning operatives should be adequate.
  • Government communications around hygiene in times of pandemic should be clear, consistent, sustained, timely, relevant and specific.
  • The Government should use behavioural science-based communication campaigns to promote hygienic behaviour to the public.
  • The Government should support the cleaning and hygiene industry in realigning perceptions of the industry.
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