Clean colleges, safer colleges

To protect learners, staff and the wider community – and to help avoid more local or national lockdowns – the government must put its money where its mouth is and fund proper college cleaning.

We all want colleges to be safe for August so that learners can get back to learning in the environment they’re used to.

UNISON is campaigning for:

More cleaners

Now that government guidance requires more rigorous and regular cleansing of classrooms, washrooms, and items touched regularly, the importance of college cleaners has never been more apparent. It’s unacceptable and unsustainable to leave colleges to make do without extra resources when some face additional costs of thousands of pounds per term.

We’re writing to the government calling on it to urgently fund the provision of an army of cleaners in colleges so that safety standards are met.


Proper training and PPE

Cleaning a busy college is a specialist job at the best of times. But with the serious risks posed by the coronavirus, it’s a whole different ball game.

Staff are going well beyond their normal procedures to deep clean on a constant basis with little to no guidance, and many haven’t had specialist training in the hazardous substances they’re expected to use. Some of our members have struggled with poor communication from line managers, feeling excluded from facilities meetings and missing out on learning about proper procedures. One told us:

“I would like to be included in meetings and have practical training, not just video information.”

We’re telling the government it needs to give colleges the resources to provide proper PPE and specialist training to their cleaners in the correct handling of potentially harmful cleaning chemicals. 

What can I do?

If you work in a college, please tell us what’s happening with cleaning.


Decent sick pay

To fight COVID-19, staff must be able to fully comply with self-isolation measures when they need to. But lots of college cleaners are employed by private firms, many of whom pay only the minimum wage and do not provide contractual sick pay. Isolating will be an impossible decision for these staff, who’ll have to rely on statutory sick pay of just £95.85 per week, if they earn enough to qualify for it at all.

The fact that some staff will face rent arrears and debt if they stay away from work when they’re potentially infectious leaves colleges open to becoming hubs for spreading the virus. We’ve seen it in care homes, where higher rates of infection were found in those with inadequate sick pay.

Two-tier sick pay has always been an issue of fairness; COVID-19 makes it an urgent safety issue too.

We’re campaigning to get private contractors in colleges to pay their staff proper contractual sick pay and at least the real Living Wage (£9.30 across the UK and £10.75 in London) so they can afford to isolate to protect the college community and prevent further closures.

What can I do?

Ask your UNISON branch to write to your college principal (using our model letter) urging them to make contact with all contractors operating in the college and to secure agreement to the payment of full contractual sick pay and the real Living Wage as a minimum by the beginning of the new academic year.

Join our clean colleges campaign and let’s get colleges safer for the new academic year.