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Could you clean a hotel room in 15 minutes?

Written by: Ned K. on 30 August, 2020


The outbreaks of Covid-19 in Melbourne and Sydney have put residential hotels in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. 

Large corporate owned hotel groups such as Travel Lodge, Rydges, Hyatt and Pullman have been used by arrangements with state governments to quarantine people for 14 day periods or longer in an effort to contain the Covid-19 virus. 

Poorly trained, low paid contract security industry workers have been unfairly blamed in the media for the spread of the virus. Then people holed up in these big hotels released to the media that the rooms they were "imprisoned" in for 14 days or more were filthy and much in need of maintenance updates. 

Rydges and Travel Lodge Hotels in particular were named as providing unhygienic rooms. In the Travel Lodge hotel in Wentworth Street, Sydney, the state government was forced to act and move all those quarantined to another hotel.

The unhygienic state of some of residential hotel rooms is not something that has just occurred in the Covid-19 period. For many decades now huge corporate hotel chains have been in a race to the bottom to cut operating costs to make more profit. The people most affected by this race to the bottom are the housekeeping staff who clean the hotel rooms. They are at the bottom of the profit-making pyramid. At the top are the international hotel group owners like Hyatt. Then comes the management companies who operate the hotels. In some cases, they have a direct contract with the owner of the hotel/s. In other cases, the hotel owner acts as franchisor and the management group are the franchisee. 

Then there is another management layer with an industry calling itself "accommodation services industry". These companies provide the labour to clean and service the residential hotel rooms and provide the catering. To get their cut in the profit pyramid, they employ large percentage of low paid, migrant labor to do "back of house" work which includes the cleaning of rooms.

The rise of serviced apartments and people renting out their own homes for short term accommodation also increased competition between the residential hotel chains in their shrinking market.

This intensified the workload pressures put on back of house workers, particularly housekeeping cleaners. First their employers cut the number of cleaners from two per room to one per room. Then they cut the time given to clean each room. Cleaners in large residential hotels are given on average 15 minutes to clean a room. They are told to "do the basics" which is a euphemism for doing a 'looking good" clean which will fool the hotel guests into  thinking they are in a clean hygienic room. 

What happened recently with the exposure of the Rydges and Travel Lodge hotels is that people cooped up in a small room for 14 days were themselves more fully exposed to the unhygienic state of the rooms, whereas in the pre Covid-19 days, guests would be spending more time outside their hotel room and often not notice the actual state of the room regarding hygiene standards.
Hotel workers and their Unions across the world have been struggling for years for better conditions and pay for hotel workers. They have taken on the big end of town and had some important wins.

For a taste of their struggles, go to You Tube and watch "This Is A Bad Bad Hotel", which shows the workers and community supporters' actions against a big US owned hotel chain.



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