HOTEL cleaners are taking hygiene shortcuts to meet deadlines to fix rooms in 15 minutes, for work that takes about 45 minutes to do properly, the union representing many of the industry's workers says.
Cleaners have also raised concerns that used cloths are being pressed into service to clean glasses in the whirlwind schedule.
"[Cleaners] use hand towels and face towels to clean the glasses for drinking. Or they go to the toilet bowl, and then go to the next room and touch the glass. The hotel just doesn't give you a clean cloth for every room," a former hotel cleaner, Yustina Laisanna, said.
An instruction sheet released by national housekeeping contractor Australian Hospitality Services, not the agency that employed Ms Laisanna, details 22 separate steps to a well-cleaned room - including stripping the bed, cleaning the bathroom and cleaning all glass surfaces.
Concerns over contractor cleaners, many of which do work for hotel chains, has led the Fair Work Ombudsman to launch a national campaign checking on working conditions and pay rates.
Jess Walsh, from union United Voice, which has run campaigns targeting hotels for not treating their cleaning staff properly, said it took 45 minutes for a cleaner to properly maintain a hotel room. But "hotel bosses" were demanding the job be done in as little as 15 minutes, she said.
"Most hotel room attendants are lucky to make $450 a week," she said, with many working unpaid overtime to get their jobs done properly. "These missing wages could add $10,000 a year to their income."
But Richard Munro, chief executive of the Accommodation Association of Australia, said that most hotels gave cleaners enough time to do rooms properly.
"First and foremost the product has to be first rate, so we as an industry don't compromise standards," he said. "Consumers will tell [hotels] very quickly if their product is not up to speed. If someone is not giving cleaners enough time to clean their rooms, their consumers will tell them."
The managing director of Tourism Accommodation Australia, Rodger Powell, said that, in many cases, 15 minutes would be ample time to clean a room well.
He said that while hotels faced a daily challenge to ensure all rooms were cleaned and presentable in time for guests, cleaners were generally provided with appropriate time and materials to ensure high standards of cleanliness and hygiene.
Ms Laisanna finished working at a four-star Melbourne hotel last year. She said the time constraints had gotten worse over 20 years in the industry, as agencies cut back on supplies and crammed more tasks into 7½-hour shifts.
The bulk of cleaning jobs in hotels are contracted to agencies who employ room attendants on casual rates. Fairfax Media obtained a roster from the hotel that employed Ms Laisanna. The roster required her to clean 13 rooms, including two suites, in 7½hours, stock cleaning carts, maintain laundry and oversee other cleaners.
The Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson, said the industry was of particular concern. In 2010-11, a cleaning services campaign by his office revealed 40 per cent of audited cleaning companies breached the law. Last month it launched its campaign to look at 1000 contract cleaning businesses.