Rushed hotel-room cleaners dish the dirt on 'hygiene shortcuts'

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.

Concerns over contract cleaners, many of whom work for major hotel chains, has led the Fair Work Ombudsman to launch a new national campaign examining 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 takes 45 minutes for a cleaner to properly maintain a hotel room. But hotel bosses are 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 the chief executive of Accommodation Association of Australia, Richard Munro, argued most hotels gave cleaners enough time to do rooms properly. Those that did not quickly lost business.

"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."

And the managing director of Tourism Accommodation Australia, Rodger Powell, said 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.

Former hotel cleaner Yustina Laisanna finished working at a four-star Melbourne hotel in 2012. She said the time constraints had become worse over the 20 years she had worked in the industry, as agencies cut back on cleaning supplies and crammed more tasks into supposed 7½-hour shifts.


"[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," she said.

The bulk of cleaning jobs in the nation's hotels are contracted out to big agencies that employ their room attendants on casual rates.

Fairfax Media obtained a roster from a senior room attendant who worked at the same four-star hotel that employed Ms Laisanna. The roster required her to clean 13 rooms, including two suites, in 7½ hours, as well as stocking cleaning carts, maintaining laundry and overseeing other cleaners.

An instruction sheet released by national housekeeping contractor Australian Hospitality Services - not the agency that employed Ms Laisanna - details the 22 steps to a well-cleaned room, including stripping the bed, cleaning the bathroom and cleaning all the glass surfaces.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said the cleaning industry was an area of particular concern.

In 2010-2011, a national cleaning services campaign by his office revealed that 40 per cent of audited cleaning companies had breached the law. Last month, it launched its campaign to look at 1000 contract-cleaning businesses.