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Intense pressure on US cleaning staff to help control the coronavirus

US janitors claim they are not being given sufficient resources to fight COVID-19 as cases of the virus continue to rise across America.

Some claim to have no access to hot water to wash their hands. And many are not informed when someone tests positive where they are working.

“Re-openings happened across the country without much thought for cleaning standards,” claims Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union. The body represents 375,000 US cleaners and Henry is demanding better standards at state and city level plus a certification system similar to that displayed in restaurants.

Interviews with dozens of workers, employers, cleaning company executives and union officials plus a review of Occupational Safety and Health Administration records have revealed a number of problems.

Workers in office buildings and supermarkets say they lack the time, training and resources to carry out the job properly. Some point to a lack of hot water to facilitate hand-washing while others claim that the fact that they are not told when someone at their workplace has tested positive makes it difficult for them to protect themselves and others.

One cleaner at a Miami office block had to resort to providing her own cleaning supplies and home-made mask. “Our brooms were worn out and we were mopping with just water and no disinfectant,” said Martha Lorena Cortez Estrada.

Cleaning company executives and union officials claim standards have fallen in recent years as businesses cut back on janitorial services. They say many of America’s two million-plus janitors carry out their work at night for minimum wage. And cleaners are often treated as a labour cost to be contracted out at the lowest possible price, they add.

Source: European Cleaning Journal