Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Back to the future
A three hour shift that starts at 5.00am is not for the faint-hearted, but the cleaning team that takes care of the offices, marble staircases and tiled corridors of Islington’s rather elegant Town Hall seem quite content.
Since the expiry of a 10 year contract with private company Kier Building Maintenance in October 2010, the 130 cleaners of borough’s 70 municipal buildings are once again directly employed by the local authority. The transfer back to an in-house service has seen the cleaners’ pay rise significantly to the London Living Wage level of £8.30 an hour, with improved conditions and no job losses. According to Council Leader Catherine West, the new arrangement costs less and, in addition to higher pay, offers the employees job security, access to the council pension scheme and the feeling of being “part of a team”.
It seems that the predictable consequences of the large-scale contracting out of council and other public services introduced by the Conservatives in the 1980s and 1990s, and left unchanged by the New Labour governments that followed, are finally being recognised in some quarters. Other council services in Islington are being reviewed, and further afield, hospital cleaners in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are now all directly employed, in an attempt to halt the disastrous spread of hospital infections. More pictures here.