After a year of doom and gloom, I am extremely heartened to read about the British Cleaning Council’s (BCC) ongoing efforts to set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group to represent the cleaning and hygiene sector in the Houses of Parliament. The aim is to give the industry a voice in Parliament, allow it to influence discussions, debate and pose questions, and to influence ministers and the government. The BCC has been working to attract prominent MPs to join the APPG and it is hoped that approval could be granted early in 2021. Whilst an APPG is run by and for members of the Commons and Lords, it can also offer opportunities for organisations within the industry to take part in its activities and administration.
As you may have heard me say before in this column, the many individual trade bodies that represent different strands of our industry work incredibly hard to promote members’ interests. Predominantly, however, they are run on a voluntary basis by senior execs of industry companies, meaning they do not always have the resource to push hard in national political circles. So it is hugely encouraging that the BCC, which is the overarching organisation representing all the key industry bodies, is fighting hard to secure top level representation in Westminster. If the concerns of our industry have been overlooked by politicians in the past, the main reason is surely that they have not understood the unique challenges we face, particularly on the contracting side. The reason for this lack of understanding may well be a result of our failure to communicate those issues forcefully enough. It will be one of the APPG’s objectives to put this right.
The timing of the initiative is perfect. Not so many months ago, our industry gained national prominence in the fight against COVID-19. Since then, it’s fair to say we have receded again to our more accustomed, semi-invisible position in the shadows, but with the difference now that our professionalism is more readily appreciated by clients and the world at large. The reward for such professionalism should be an acknowledgement at national level that cleaning, with all its constituent parts, is a vital industry in its own right. There is no reason why a top 10 industry employing 1.6 million people, or 5% of the UK’s workforce, should only be discussed in the context of its relationship to facilities management or environmental services. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels frustrated when filling out an online form for a conference or event and ends up selecting ‘other’ from the ‘industry’ drop-down box.
In addition to lobbying on employee health and safety, I am looking forward to progress on the real living wage, essential worker status and benefits, and initiatives to address the shrinking pool of labour we are witnessing due to the announcement and now the implementation of immigration controls. I hope we will also reach a stage, as a result of the pandemic, where the procurement of cleaning contracts becomes an enlightened process that enshrines certain minimum enforceable standards of operation and compliance necessary to safeguard health and hygiene at client premises.
Lastly, and maybe more optimistically, I am also envisaging a future where members of our business community tour schools and colleges promoting cleaning as an industry with clearly-defined career opportunities and nationally respected qualifications at all levels. It will be a magnificent achievement if the BCC succeeds in the establishment of the APPG. After that, the sky’s the limit
Published in February issue of Tomorrow’s FM