Human Rights for Cleaners


Human rights for cleaners is a rarely discussed subject, simply because the problems barely surface to attention. A cleaner works fixed hours in a residential and commercial setting after which the working environment is not subjected to scrutiny. This is repeated time after time with the cleaners themselves keeping silent on the working conditions for obvious reasons – mainly to protect their jobs. However, there has been a gradual and slow change and the subject of human rights for cleaners is coming to the fore. Studies are being conducted and answers are being sought on ways and means to improve their lot. However, this growing awareness is not fast on the uptake and a lot more needs to be done in the present scenario. It will therefore be relevant to go into some details on what ails this sector.

The first is of course work pressure. Any cleaning company, even the large and reputed ones have limited number of workers to save on establishment expenses. Hence a group of cleaners have to complete their task quickly at one location before moving on to the next. What makes it unmanageable often is that the work has to be finished before the start of office hours which is pretty much standardised for all. Hence, there is hardly any time for a short breather between one job and the next. The pressure on the workers to perform constantly without compromising on the quality of output can therefore be imagined.

The next is adhering to odd working hours. A company might have different departments with separate work timings. Cleaners have to complete their work outside business hours so that the office routine is not disturbed in any way and have to come in accordingly. Extended working hours can put tremendous pressure on the mental and physical health of the cleaners. It also affects their family lives too. There are some cleaning agencies however like Brighten Serv based in Melbourne, Australia that have hired adequate workers to get around this problem but such instances are rare.

Another human rights violation so far as cleaners are concerned is the solutions used by them. There is a general misconception that chemical laced cleaning products works better and faster. Nothing can be further from the truth. Green cleaning solutions that do not contain harsh and abrasive toxic ingredients clean just as well. As a bonus, it also protects the health of the cleaners as they do not have to come in touch with the harmful stuff on a daily basis. Firms that use mild non toxic items ensure that their cleaners are always in the pink of health. By this one action, the human rights of cleaners are greatly protected.

There are some activities too that cleaners have to undertake without being properly trained in that field. Take the case of “working at heights” with cleaning of external panels of windows of high rises being an example. It is essential the specialised and experienced cleaners be assigned this work only but not all companies follow this principle, thereby putting the lives of the cleaners at risk. It is definitely another instance of the gross negligence that cleaners have to face as a part of their daily cleaning routine.

Human rights for cleaners are rarely mentioned but are nevertheless an important aspect of the profession.