British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have paid tribute to the role of cleaners during the coronavirus crisis in parliament.
The British Cleaning Council (BCC) welcomed the comments and is calling for cleaners to be recognised as essential ‘critical or key workers’ due to the vital need to maintain high hygiene standards during the pandemic.
The Prime Minister and the leader of the Labour Party were taking part in Prime Minister’s Questions when Corbyn praised the “unsung heroes” of the public sector who ‘keep us safe’ during the outbreak.
“I’d like to pay special mention to one group that are hugely ignored, forgotten and decried as unskilled workers – cleaners. All around the country and in this building, (they) are doing their best to keep our places hygienic and safe,” Corbyn said.
In his reply, the Prime Minister said: “I agree with him very much about what he said about cleaners, they do an extraordinary job and they deserve all the protection and support we can give them in this difficult time.”
Chairman of the BCC, Paul Thrupp, said everyone in the cleaning sector will appreciate the vital work being recognised by the country’s leading figures.
“All too often, the role of cleaners is invisible and forgotten yet our work couldn’t be more important, particularly now in the fight against coronavirus, and this reinforces our call for cleaners to be given essential ‘critical or key worker’ status due to the need for high hygiene standards during the pandemic.”
In a statement issued last week, Thrupp said: “As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic together as an industry, it is my duty to keep you informed about how the British Cleaning Council is campaigning to ensure that people within our industry are viewed as essential ‘critical or key workers’ who are needed more than ever to ensure we not only maintain but elevate hygiene standards in the UK in order to come out of this crisis quicker.
“The BCC and its members have the staff, products, equipment and machinery to reduce the risk to human health by providing and maintaining clean, sanitised and safe premises and environments.
“Our regular day to day cleaning staff and our specialist and periodical industrial and window cleaning staff all have a major part in improving the environmental hygiene of the UK.
“Even in lockdown, premises and particularly education, retail, healthcare establishments and care homes will require more frequent sanitisation regimes at what may well be a premium time to do so.
“Our cleaning staff throughout the UK have the expertise, training and knowledge to carry out sanitisation, hygiene, clinical or decontamination cleans so it is essential that the workforce are kept available by being identified as ‘critical or key workers’ by the Prime Minister and the British Government.
“Additionally, our cleaning product suppliers need to remain at work to provide the consumables and products to clean with, from wipes and paper products, to disinfectants, sanitisers and cleaning products in general. And our machinery and equipment providers need to produce and supply specialist cleaning equipment that our staff can use.
Report reveals cleaning sector employs 5 per cent of UK workforce
New research released this week by BCC revealed there are approximately 1.63 million workers in the industry, making up around five per cent of the UK workforce.
This total, calculated for the first time by including cleaning workers employed by businesses and organisations in non-core cleaning industries such as cabin crew who clean planes at turnaround and shopworkers who clean the store, gives a true picture of the scale and importance of the sector.
The figures put cleaning on a par with the transport and storage sector and makes it one of the top 10 largest UK industries for employment.
Overall, employment in the industry has increased 5 per cent between 2015 and 2018 – greater than the whole economy, which recorded a three per cent growth in that period.
Cleaning contributed more than £54.5bn to the economy in 2018 with overall turnover increasing by 28 per cent since 2013, double the 14 per cent turnover of the economy overall in the same period (ONS 2019).
One of the industry’s growth areas is the rising demand for recycling – waste and resources management rose to nearly £14bn in 2018 and now accounts for over a quarter (26 per cent) of the turnover of the cleaning industry.
“The cleaning industry has long believed the overall employment figure for the cleaning industry was much understated by the official statistics for the core cleaning activities. So this report is a valuable contribution to the national conversation about the financial, environmental and social value of cleaning to the nation,” Thrupp said.
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up to INCLEAN’s newsletter.