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Cleaning is back in the spotlight and as generally happens, the resulting scrutiny hasn't shown us in the best light. First, there was the collapse of Carillion, which - although not just cleaning-related, led the public to once again question the merits of outsourcing and its ability to provide value for money. While most of us accept that when it comes to the more difficult disciplines, a specialist contractor's knowledge is required, the perception that 'anyone can clean' has caused many to wonder whether we should put an end to the outsourcing of cleaning.
More recently, covert filming by an undercover reporter for Channel 4's Dispatches has revealed footage of a hotel housekeeper being told to use the same guest towel to clean entire bathrooms - including the toilet! If you're reading this from one of the 160-plus countries outside of Britain that Cleanzine reaches, the hotel involved - the Premier Inn - is one of our biggest hotel chains. You can imagine the damage this news has done to the brand - and ISS, the contractor involved. As well as being instructed to follow unhygienic cleaning practices, undercover reporter 'Irina', was told to work unpaid to achieve room-cleaning targets that were too tight for her, meaning she was effectively paid below the legal national living wage.
Because Irina was considered too slow, she was paired with the hotel's fastest cleaner who shared her shortcuts, which I know contravene the contractor's training principles of using specific equipment for certain tasks and following accepted colour-coding regimes. So once again a reputable contractor's ability to deliver has been called into question, because of the actions of what may have been just one cleaner who thought she was working smart to meet targets, or perhaps gain recognition or promotion, and who just happened to be caught out...
This isn't the only such incident TV crews have brought to our screens though. Other contractors have had their reputations damaged but the real problem is, it's not just the contractor that's harmed, but the entire industry. With so many operatives working from so many different locations, how on earth can management control the actions of every employee and prevent 'rogue' cleaners from passing on their bad habits? It strikes me as being an impossible task but I think we need to find a way, if outsourcing as we know it, is to survive.
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15th February 2018