National survey reveals cleaners’ coronavirus concerns

Nine in 10 cleaners are having to rush essential work, while eight in 10 don't always have enough equipment.

A national survey of more than 500 cleaners has revealed that nine in 10 cleaners are having to rush essential cleaning work, while eight in 10 do not always have enough cleaning equipment during the coronavirus crisis.

United Workers Union has released the results as part of its new campaign calling for higher wages and secure work for Australia’s cleaning workforce in the post-Covid world. The national survey by the cleaners’ union was conducted online last week, with 531 cleaners taking part.

According to the results, many cleaners are in a constant state of worry over job security with 77 per cent worried about losing their job and 80 per cent worried they will lose hours.

The main survey findings:

  • 91 per cent of surveyed cleaners always, often or sometimes have to rush their work because they don’t have enough time
  • 80 per cent of cleaners do not have enough cleaning equipment to do a quality job
  • 74 per cent do not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to do their job safely
  • 70 per cent receive no face-to-face training
  • 86 per cent of cleaners say they are not paid what they are worth
  • 77 per cent of cleaners are worried that they will lose their job
  • 80 per cent of cleaners are worried that they will lose hours

Issues reported by cleaners in the survey:

  • Not having enough time to finish work, constant rushing is very stressful
  • Not having enough time to do a more detailed job, always being short-staffed
  • Employers skimping on chemicals supplies and equipment, or diluting chemicals
  • Not having safety issues taken seriously
  • Not supplied with enough training, or with correct working equipment and PPE
  • Poor wages, lack of job security and entitlements
  • No respect in the workplace, no appreciation and recognition of the hard work

Lyndal Ryan, director of property services for the United Workers Union said “cleaners are doing essential work in a broken system.”

“The [coronavirus] crisis has shown everyone that high quality cleaning that protects public health and safety cannot be delivered on a shoestring budget. Too often cleaners are asked to do too much, in not enough time, without the right training and equipment – because for years and years the contract system has driven cleaning wages and costs down,” Ryan said.

“Re-opening the economy is contingent on cleaning – quality cleaning is essential to the management and prevention of COVID-19. We cannot have cleaning that is inadequate for the day to day protection of people as we rebuild public confidence in returning to public spaces.

“The survey results show the current reality for our cleaners – rushing work, without enough cleaning equipment to do a quality job and without enough PPE to do their job safely. In the post-Covid world it is time for a reset, for too long contractors have been cutting corners, then cleaners bear the brunt.

“Federal, state and local government, universities, big building owners, airports and shopping mall owners buy cleaning services and they need to understand that the cleaning of their buildings and services cannot be delivered on the smell of an oily rag. Quality cleaning requires trained cleaners, with the right equipment and enough time to do the job.

“Cleaners are raising awareness of what cleaning is actually like now and what needs to change. It’s time to listen to our cleaners, they’ll be setting an agenda for the way ahead for the cleaning industry so that cleaning jobs are better into the future. Cleaners deserve decent wages and secure work now, more than ever.”

Anna Reay, cleaner at the University of Tasmania, said: “COVID-19 has highlighted how essential the work of cleaners is. Finally people are talking about how important our work is. Now cleaners want everyone to do more than talk about it. Cleaners need time to do a good job, with better equipment, good wages, and secure jobs. The system needs to change so cleaners can do the quality cleaning they want to do, and so the best outcomes for public health and safety are delivered for everyone.”

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