The contract cleaning industry is a microcosm of the worst health impacts of changing working conditions over the last thirty years.

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Time to live

The right to "take time to live" is still a big battle to fight to ensure equal and good quality conditions of life in Europe. This claim might seem not to add up when taken against the huge productivity gains. The production and equal distribution of goods to ensure that everyone on the planet has the material basis for a good quality life would... Find out more

Barroso I: a 5-year standstill on health and safety at work

Workers were hoping for a better legislative framework, especially to tackle MSDs and occupational cancers, but the ex-Portuguese PM’s first term heading the Commission was more taken up with his single-minded pursuit of a rapid and far-reaching deregulation programme. A new European Commission took office in November 2004, headed by José Manuel... Find out more

Fabienne Scandella

The hidden face of a booming industry

Cleaning has long been a poor relation of industry sector studies. Hitherto neglected because "negligible" in terms of jobs and turnover alike, three decades of steady growth now demand that it be given more than a passing glance. This article spotlights the trends and features of an overlooked industry that now employs more than 3.6 million... Find out more

Berta Chulvi

"The schools are cleaner, but the cleaners are less healthy”

In Spain, cleaning products are making women cleaners seriously ill. Some are having to stop work altogether, but almost no-one seems to care. A field study of these workers shows that the prevention system is not working at all. Rufi Soriano and Dolores Caldeiro set to work when the bell sounds the end of lessons. They work for a cleaning firm... Find out more

Denis Grégoire

"They’re worn-out in every respect"

Yves Roquelaure heads the Laboratory for Ergonomics and Epidemiology in Occupational Health, a research unit linked to the University of Angers and the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (INVS). He coordinated a large-scale epidemiological survey on upper limb musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the Pays de la Loire region in 2002... Find out more

Fabienne Scandella

A dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it...

A survey over several months of contract cleaning sites in Brussels and London uncovered the forms of managerial arrangement that work to deny cleaners the social and occupational recognition they aspire to. They create conditions that are a breeding ground for psychosocial disorders. Repulsion and disgust are universal reactions to filth and... Find out more

Denis Grégoire

Standing out among the invisible

An early thirty-something with already more than a decade in cleaning behind him, the young Moroccan landed in the capital of Europe with dreams of becoming a lawyer. He clearly has drive, but for now has to settle for using it to help the unseen workforce. At 32, Anass Nadi has already done the cleaning industry from A to Z. Starting out as a... Find out more

Pien Heuts

"No more being ground down for us", Dutch cleaners up in arms

Dutch cleaners have been striking for over nine weeks to get a new collective agreement. Never in the Netherlands have so many cleaners been moved to direct action - apparently all thanks to unionization. It is May 2010, and 80-odd cleaners are contemplating their new collective agreement (CA) with pride and satisfaction. For the past two days, the... Find out more

Denis Grégoire

MSDs: action-oriented research helps unions to break the silence

Tens of millions of European workers suffer from musculoskeletal disorders - an “epidemic” that politicians and social partners alike have done too little about. Will the answers come from the shopfloor? Over 300 members of a Belgian trade union have taken part in an "action-oriented research" project, and the initiative is spreading. "Many... Find out more

Caroline Crosdale

United States: OSHA gets a new life

Since President Obama came to power, the US federal health and safety at work agency, OSHA, has increasingly broken away from the line taken under George W. Bush. A long period of unwavering belief in self-regulation may be giving way to a big stick policy much less favourable to unscrupulous employers. "There's a new sheriff in town." So said... Find out more

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Cleaning up: workers under pressure