This is a UNISON press release. It’s a potentially good initiative so long as it is translated into campaigning activity. It can help to expose the reality of staffing levels under privatised services, and step up the campaign for bringing all cleaning back in house.
(14/04/08) Hospital cleaners need greater resources to defeat healthcare-associated infections, UNISON health conference delegates declared in Manchester today.
Noting that the government’s target of halving MRSA incidents by April 2008 looks like it hasn’t been met, conference called for more cleaners, better paid and with modern equipment.
And it called on the government to recognise the link between cuts in numbers of cleaning staff and the rise in infections, implement ‘clean hospital committees’ in all hospitals, implement Agenda for Change and the agreement on the two-tier workforce for cleaning staff, and take steps to meet the bed occupancy target of 85%, rather than the current 95%.
Specifically, the union called for better training for domestic staff and recognised that winning adequate staffing levels means “addressing the chronically low pay rates of cleaning staff”, particularly by abolishing the lowest NHS pay point, band 1, so that cleaners aren’t “having to work an average of 54 hours a week”, as delegate Elizabeth Pratt noted.
“Without domestic workers, we wouldn’t have clean hospitals,” noted Martin Grant, a cleaner at the Royal London hospital, but “nobody knows how hard we work.
“Nobody knows what we go through on low pay, struggling to make ends meet.”
Conference vowed to make sure the public and government does know – and called for action to tackle that low pay.