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The battle for deserved recognition

Just Saying with Delia Cannings
1. The inside story on outside dirt
2. Behind the scenes at party time
3. Facing up to a crisis in cleaning
4. Support the ‘We Clean We Care’ campaign and radically change perceptions
5. It’s Holiday Time!
6. The battle for deserved recognition
7. Looking after our precious floors
8. ‘Spring Clean’ more than our premises
9. Just Saying: Rising to the challenge

Delia Cannings is determined to press those in power to recognise our importance

I must start by saying how honoured and humbled I was to be appointed Chair of the British Cleaning Council (BCC), an opportunity to continue my crusade for recognition of our cleaning workforces and housekeeping teams, what I call our Environmental Ninjas.

Personally, I love late autumn, with long walks during the evening, wrapped up against the crisp, chilly air and the promise of delicious hot chocolate after a ramble through our local woods. It’s a noticeable time of change for nature. We live in a time of change, both for the country and the cleaning, hygiene, hospitality, and waste industry and I’m seeking your support before decay occurs. The nation is still dealing with the effects of Brexit and the fear of Covid-19 may have reduced but the pandemic is not over, and working patterns and behaviours have changed considerably.

But one thing hasn’t changed – we are still fighting for the recognition cleaning staff deserve. Some people may dismiss our occupation as ‘just cleaning’, even though the sector’s staff are consistently working to protect the health and wealth of the nation, providing reassurances of clean and hygienic environments. The sector we represent is hugely important. The cleaning, hygiene and waste industry is one of the biggest in the UK, worth £59bn and employing 1.47m people. As Chair of the BCC I’ve written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to seek his support on this vital matter. I was delighted to see Sir Keir Starmer during his speech at the Labour conference referring to the value of cleaning operatives just before being sprinkled with glitter. How very apt, I thought. He said, “No more cleaners mocked as they scrub mess off the walls of illegal parties in Westminster.”

A new broom and some sweeping changes

In 2021, under the leadership of my predecessor as chair, the inspirational Jim Melvin, the BCC launched the ‘We Clean, We Care’ campaign to highlight the pride of staff in their vital, frontline role keeping the public healthy, safe, and well. This remains a key message. The need for recognition, along with making cleaning and hygiene a national priority were at the centre of the ‘Embedding Effective Hygiene for a Resilient UK’ report, produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry last December.

The report, which followed a detailed inquiry, made 11 recommendations for government, regulators, and the industry itself to ensure lessons would be learnt from the national approach to cleaning and hygiene during the pandemic, to boost the UK’s resilience to current common infections and any future public health emergency.

This extremely important report will help save lives in the future. Yet, I regret to say that the government have so far paid it little attention. That’s why the BCC launched a campaign in February to call on industry members to help lobby for its recommendations to be adopted. This was a key element of the letter I wrote to the PM. We also asked sector staff to download a letter from our website about the report and email it to their MP. My sincere thanks goes to in excess of 550 colleagues who, at the last count, have taken part in our write to your MP campaign. However, come on people, in an industry employing 1.47m, surely we can muster more support than that? Therefore, if you haven’t got involved, please give us your backing now. It will only take minutes. The letter is ready, just download, sign and send to your MP, Minister, or person of influence. We need you to join us in this fight to make sure the voice of our industry is heard. In my role as Chair and alongside colleagues at the BCC we are determined to continue championing the APPG report and we are working to bring it to the attention of the government.

We’ll leave no stone unturned in our efforts to acquire recognition for the silent armies across the country, our Cleaning Heroes.

Today, as I write, it is ‘Thank your Cleaning Operative Day.’ May I say a huge ‘Thank You’ to all involved in providing safer spaces and reassurances for all of us through cleaning and hygiene. You rock!

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