Cleaners: They work for wages, starving at the expense of their health

Tuesday, June 20, Cleaner Day. At Muntplein in Brussels, passers-by are treated by cleaners who are members of ACV Food and Services. Whether they want to spin the wheel of calamity. Always a prize, everyone “wins” one of the issues that cleaners have to deal with on a daily basis. Illness or disability, but also financial problems, family problems and disdain.

“As far as I’m concerned, all of these problems have something to do with the split work schedules phenomenon,” one fighter tells us. “We work long hours, but there are entire windows where we don’t work and we don’t get paid. That makes it impossible to set up a full-time schedule. Pay scales are low, so those who can’t work full-time balance on the brink of poverty. And that, in turn, causes the stress you feel.” in your family life, affecting your health.”

twice as likely to die at an early age

Cleaner’s day. Photo: Jeroen Permentier

The health of the cleaners is also under pressure due to the nature of the work. According to research conducted by ACV Food and Services from 2018, 74% of cleaners experience physical or psychological complaints as a result of their work. This mainly concerned physical complaints such as back or neck pain (79.9%) and joint pain (68.3%) and psychological complaints such as stress (41.1%), fatigue or insomnia (37.6%). Employees have more health complaints with increased seniority. Nine out of ten cleaning companies do not respect health regulations.

Recent research shows that 72% of night cleansers are sleep deprived. In Belgium, more than half of the workers in the cleaning sector work early in the morning, at night or in shifts.

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Working with cleaning products every day also poses health risks. Asthma and other respiratory diseases are more common in this sector. They are partly responsible for the fact that cleaners are twice as likely to die young than those who work in another sector. Many cleaning products also contain endocrine disrupting agents, which pose risks to the unborn babies of pregnant cleaning women.

Respect the cleaner

The petition launched by ACV Food and Services has a simple request, for an increase in wages of one euro per hour. Today, the job of a cleaner in a company and the profession of cleaning assistant are among the three lowest paid jobs in Belgium. The union also wants to make work more workable by reducing working hours and recognizing a number of disorders as occupational diseases.

Then there are the eternal stereotypes. Cleaning will be a profession that does not need any special skills for it. In Belgium, more than 200,000 people, mostly women, make their living by cleaning: domestic helpers on service slips, room maids, window cleaners, janitors and cleaners in schools or companies.

The union wants more respect for the professional cleaner. She also associates this with the call for a more equitable distribution of household chores in families.

Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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