Who does the cleaning?

Submitted by AWL on 5 August, 2020 - 6:44 Author: Keith Road
Tesco cleaner

As some sites return to work the kinds of jobs people are doing have shifted. Shops, bars, restaurants and attractions are now doing more regular and more thorough cleaning.

Tesco has brought the cleaning in-house in its 1,920 Express and Metro smaller shops. The cleaning was previously done by an outsourced contractor. Tesco ended the contract rather than bring the workers in house, so cleaning will now be done by the same staff who manage the shop, stock the shelves, and serve on the till.

Many workers are unhappy about being required now to undertake work that was not part of their original contracts and that they consider demeaning, as well as physically more demanding.

There is recent evidence that surface (rather than airborne) transmission of the virus is rare. Maybe Tesco bosses and others are making more of a performative than practical approach on harm reduction. And workers should be able to resist the imposition of new tasks on them by bosses looking for good PR.

But we shouldn’t consider the role of cleaning to be inherently below anyone not called a cleaner. Someone has to do this work.

We are not yet in a society where the burden of cleaning in any workplace can be equitably shared among all staff. But the work should be paid a real living wage and have the full holiday, sick pay, and pension entitlements rarely available to outsourced cleaners.

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