Cleaners get Centre Stage. Time for a call to action!

Cleaners get Centre Stage.

Time for a call to action!

Written by Mike Watt

In Simon and Garfunkel, ‘Kathy’s song’ there is a line that I’ve always enjoyed; “There but for the grace of you go I”.

Admittedly, that is a little deep as it implies that something bad that has happened, is happening to someone else, where it could have been you.

I tend to think more about it as I look at the effects on our world from COVID-19, this nasty little virus lurking in open spaces and areas not so easily seen and reflect on the custodians, those who clean and disinfect for their chosen vocation and think of Kathy’s song.

It is indeed an extremely important job. Someone who is charged with the responsibility of not only just cleaning but disinfecting for the purposes of protecting if not preserving the health of the public, indoor environmentally speaking. Stewards of indoor environments, if there ever was one.

I’ve always admired the work of Nurses. Registered and otherwise. My amazing sister-in-law has been one all of her life and soon to be, so too, will her son who happens to be my god son and Nephew.

Highly skilled at their profession [Nurses]. To think that we could have Nurses, Doctors, other health-care providers that are not skilled, accredited and educated is unthinkable. The risk that is involved is enormous. Competency is a must.

We’ve done an excellent job (arguably) in our society to educate, train and accredit Health Care professionals. There is a reasonable expectation that if you are in the care of a Doctor, Dentist, Nurse and professionals in other related fields, you are in good hands, or at least have some recourse with the oversight body of that profession.

In the case of custodians, cleaners and those who clean to a public health protection standard, we don’t educate or hold this profession to any where nearly the same standard.

Hospital cleaners, employed directly with the Hospital and School board custodians in the same relationship with the board who employs them, are generally well paid, by “cleaning custodian pay” standards.

Certainly, none of these individuals will ever make the Sunshine list, however, for a job as a cleaner, some would argue, they are well paid. Perhaps?

In the matter of the vast majority of those who are not employed with these two windfall employers, those cleaning professionals often make minimum wage.

When my son got his first job at McDonalds as a part timer, he made about the same money as the custodian who is charged with the responsibility of cleaning and disinfecting to protect and defend public health. The key difference is my son was a part timer going to school, living with his mom and dad so his income was discretionary. His minimum wage-earning counterpart likely had children, perhaps a spouse but most certainly debts like every other adult in the world but is hard pressed to barely scratch out an existence.

It’s a very expensive world we live in, if I am overstating the obvious. Beyond the basic necessities of life, not much is left over for other things. Certainly, participating in post secondary education for their children is off the table.

Sad, but nonetheless true.

What this unprecedented time will teach us is the value of Essential Services.

Hey, all essential services are worth their weight in gold, that is for certain, however, in the matter of remuneration for highly important and very necessary work, we have a long way to go for our professionals in the cleaning industry.

It has to start with society, and as a result of this Pandemic, cleaners have been getting some very much and long over-due recognition and that is truly a great thing.

As Maslow theorized on the economic man assumption, the economies of scale are grossly erroneous for the custodial segment of our society. Being paid your weight in silver is not the same as gold.

When we start to truly value and embrace the worth and value of those who clean and disinfect, we will start to push the criteria for people doing these very important jobs, but the remuneration needs to be closely aligned. Attitude and behaviour after all is a function of the way you see your role. Change that, and we are on the road to significant improvements in the areas of clean and disease free environments.

If we think about other trades like Electricians, Pipe Fitters, Plumbers, Mechanical trades etc, there is a well defined apprentice program that helps a person along a continuum such that as a society, we can turn a light switch on without getting electrocuted, our children are not scalded because the hot water was plumbed correctly, or that our brakes don’t fail when approaching a pedestrian. All work performed by licensed, competently skilled trades people.

The reality is, we don’t have proper accredited training programs to help our custodians along a continuum, and we don’t mentor through an apprentice program that is licensed, regulated and affirmed as a certified professional, competent to do the work properly.

Our risk is too great. We’ve seen it with this wake-up call (COVID-19 pandemic).

Collectively, this is about thought leadership and execution. It is about business, government and industry coming together, affirming and recognizing that we have failed this industry and not only do we have to get significantly better at it, we need to be properly prepared for it.

Our world is too large now. We are ill prepared by design. We need an over-haul, but we are doomed if we wait. Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power.

Thank and affirm the cleaners as we have is great and human affirmation is so needed, however, in this highly complex interdependent world, the medium of exchange for survival is money.

Collectively, this is about thought leadership and execution. It is about business, government and industry coming together, affirming and recognizing that we have failed this industry and not only do we have to get significantly better at it, we need to be properly prepared for it.

Paradigms die hard, but they do die. This is an idea whose time has come.

Let’s fix this.

Importance of Clean Whitepaper: https://www.avmor.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/IMPORTANCE-OF-CLEAN-White-Paper-Final.pdf

Thank a custodian video:

Leave a Reply