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Cleaning Up Across Europe

15 November 2005

Migration, labour costs, TUPE, day time cleaning and best practice are just some of the issues under discussion in the European Federation of Cleaning Industries. Jane Fenwick talks to its President, John Oliver

EUROPEANS MAY NOT BE ABLE to agree a constitutional framework by which to manage European Union (EU) business, but that does not mean that Europe-wide cooperation and debate does not continue on a host of different and vital topics, and sensible solutions are arrived at by mutual agreement.

Bodies such as The European Federation of Cleaning Industries (EFCI) which represents the cleaning industry in the member states of the EU, carries out important work lobbying the EU with benefits that permeate into all member countries. Currently under British presidency, EFCI's Circle met in London last month from 23-24 October when it debated ¡®The State of the Industry - Margins and the Way Forward.

The EFCI comprises representatives of the relevant national trade associations in the EU member states. Of the 25 member states, 18 have national associations and currently the membership of Slovenia, one of the new accession states, is being processed. The EFCI is primarily a lobbying body managed by a secretariat based in Brussels, conveniently located for contact with European Commission (EC) and EU officials, and where most of the meetings take place.

The role of the Federation is to represent the common interests of the cleaning industry, to influence EC policy where appropriate and to promote best practice in the cleaning industry. From 2004 to 2007, the EFCI is under the presidency of the UK and John Oliver, Chief Operating Officer of OCS is at the helm. As Oliver explained, "The EFCI board comprises representatives of the national trade associations and employers from member states. My company, OCS Group, has been a member of the UK national trade association, the CSSA, for 25 years. After my three year term of office I will be succeeded in March 2007 by the Spanish Federation."

Agenda
As President, Oliver can drive the agenda to a reasonably large extent. He continues: "In my time as President I hope to enhance the sharing of information from country to country, to encourage a better understanding among my European colleagues of the benefit of multiserviced contracts, to continue the spread of daytime cleaning and to encourage the spread of innovation through dialogue with the support sections of our industry, such as with suppliers and manufacturers."

This is a tall order since there are already a number of major issues the EFCI has under discussion with the EC. Lobbying the EC involves the EFCI secretariat gathering industry views on common issues, co-ordinating responses to EC Directives and networking with officials to influence draft Regulations. This is particularly useful for national representatives as it often provides an 'early warning system'of policies that are likely to surface in the member states.

For example the EFCI has led the way on discussions on TUPE at EC level and acted as a guide to the latest round of consultations on the subject here in the UK. Other recent topics influenced by the EFCI in Brussels were public sector procurement and electronic auctions.

Both these issues have been hotly debated in the UK, and have equally raised concerns in other EU member states. Oliver reports: "The EFCI made a public declaration jointly with the European Trade Unions against the use of eAuctions and it was successful in influencing an inclusion in the Public Sector Procurement Regulations that relegated the use of eAuctions from EU to national levels for service sector industries."

As the EU grows in size and market importance, so the issues faced by the EFCI and member states' cleaning organizations grow in importance and scale. The EFCI members regularly debate topics of common interest and identify key areas for development. A work programme is maintained and contributed to by both employers and national associations.

Recent topics have included migration, labour costs, workplace stress, quality measurement and workplace ergonomics, Oliver explained. "Most recently the concept of daytime cleaning was developed, debated and promoted. The concept may seem simple but allows a higher degree of housekeeping to be delivered by better trained and motivated employees. Customers are pleasantly surprised by the productivity improvements linked to quality output as a result of daytime cleaning."

But by far the most important issues managed by the EFCI refer to employment matters. The EFCI has been at the forefront influencing the EC on recent key employment issues such as TUPE, the Working Time and Work at Height Regulations. The Federation monitors the impact of employment legislation on the industry and provides valuable comparative data to national associations for use when developing national policy.

One of the most significant proposals to come out of the European commission in recent times has been drive towards creating an Internal Market for Services. Highly complex and with implications across a wide range of service industries including cleaning, the internal market proposals have been in gestation for some time.

Oliver explained, "The EFCI is currently working with the European Commission to influence changes to the latest draft. Its members have expressed serious concerns for the logic behind key sections of the initiative and have just issued a declaration against the paragraphs dealing with the 'Country of Origin' principles. These allow for employers to deliver services in another member state at wage rates pertaining to their home place of employment. This is already an issue since some employers in certain member states are experiencing problems where cleaning companies are 'bussing' employees across national borders to deliver services at artificially low rates of pay and under poor living conditions. The EFCI considers that if such a proposal is accepted it would be damaging both to employees and employers, and appears to fly in the face of common sense as well as the raft of social legislation produced by the EC on behalf of employees.

"Few will doubt the benefits of a level playing field for the sale of products across member states where the specifications are clear and can be measured. Companies in the service sector add value by selling the time of their employees and, in our market, there are few if any clearly defined industry standards against which to measure value. Therefore it makes sense to employ, develop and deploy our staff to the accepted national employment regulations. Anything else is an erosion of all the social legislation put in place over the life of the EU. The 'Country of Origin' clauses are ill-thought through and ill-timed and we must all guard against their inclusion."

The EFCI maintains a social dialogue committee for the purpose of developing better relations and areas of common ground with the relevant European trade unions for the cleaning industry. Under the guise of an EU sponsored forum called Uni-Europa, EFCI representatives meet with their trade union counterparts on a regular basis to work on issues of common interest. The Recent EFCI/Uni-Europa publication Selecting Best Value in the Public Procurement of Cleaning Services* was the result of a joint collaboration between employers and trade unions in the cleaning sector to help overcome problems in the public procurement of services in the cleaning industry. It also culminated in the joint declaration against eAuctions signed last year by John Oliver for the EFCI and Bernadette Segol of the European TUC.

The EFCI board of directors also identifies common interest topics and members develop best practices based on sound polices that have evolved at national level. This process works through the involvement of employers in the industry. The EFCI Circle which met in London last month, is a forum for employers and offers a platform of information, debate and exchange of experiences to employers from member countries.

"The Circle provides employers with an opportunity to compare and contrast their own experiences with colleagues from other EU countries and to anticipate changes that will affect their organisations in the future,"commented Oliver. "A recent debate on the development of daytime cleaning and its benefits to the client, the employee and the contractor is a good example. Circle members heard presentations on this theme from a variety of national sources and from different perspectives."

More info
¡ñ For information on the European federation of Cleaning industries visit: www.feni.be
....This publication is available from the CSSA free of charge by contacting Martyn Vesey on 020 7481 0881 More information on the UK cleaning and support services industry can be found at: www.cleaningindustry.org


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