Dutch and Belgian Cleaners Demand Justice

Dutch and Belgian Cleaners Demand Justice

A united delegation of Dutch cleaners organized by FNV union and Belgian cleaners from ACV-CSC and AC-CG ABVV-FGTB, in coordination with UNI Europa, staged a rally outside the European Parliament calling for fair wages, daytime cleaning, and “no public contract without a collective agreement.”

Prior to this event, cleaners and trade union delegates met with Agnes Jongerius, Member of the European Parliament, to present the findings of the first-ever global cleaners’ survey. The survey focused on the impact of work schedules, particularly nighttime shifts and split shifts, on cleaners’ social lives, well-being, and mental health.

The press was invited to speak to cleaners about their work and their demands.

A worker from AC-CG in Belgium emphasized the challenges faced by cleaners, stating, “I worked multiple shifts during the week. Early morning, evenings, and even at night. We were exhausted, tired, and desperate. Clients may have thought they were saving costs, but it was our health, safety, and family and social lives that suffered.”

The global survey of cleaners, encompassing over 2500 cleaners, highlighted key findings:

  • 72% of night cleaners reported inadequate sleep.
  • Nearly 46% of night cleaners and 48% of evening cleaners experienced negative impacts on their mental health.
  • Female cleaners working night shifts were more likely to face harassment while commuting compared to their counterparts on other shifts.
  • 9% of cleaners working night shifts felt a lack of control over their schedules.

This prevailing sense of insecurity was exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis.

A cleaner, member of FNV union in the Netherlands expressed the need for change, stating, “We came to Brussels to shed light on how the cost-of-living crisis disproportionately affected us. We deserved better. During the Covid-19 crisis, we were labeled ‘key workers,’ but then governments and employers blamed our wage demands for inflation. They shouldn’t have blamed essential workers for inflation; they should have blamed the companies making super-profits.”

Despite the challenges, trade unions made significant progress in influencing governments, politicians, and employers. In October 2022, the EU social partners in Industrial Cleaning EFCI and UNI Europa signed a joint statement urging European institutions to adopt daytime cleaning and continuous shifts for cleaners. More recently, German Labour and Social Affairs Minister Hubertus Heil announced the elimination of evening hours for cleaners in his Ministry.

The coalition of unions rallying outside the European Parliament had a clear message for the European Union: to implement daytime cleaning in all cleaning contracts and revise public procurement directives to enhance working conditions.

A cleaner, member of ACV-CSC in Belgium emphasized the urgency of the shift to daytime cleaning, stating, “We needed an economy-wide transition to daytime cleaning, and it started with the European institutions. Daytime cleaning offered a triple-win solution. Workers were no longer isolated and invisible; companies could attract and retain employees, and clients could contribute easily to sustainability and decent work. The time for this change was now!”

Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa, highlighted the need for fair treatment, stating, “Cutting corners should not have been rewarded. When companies competed for public tenders, they should not have been incentivized to compromise working conditions. The EU’s broken public procurement rules had to be fixed by strengthening collective bargaining. Cleaners deserved a living wage, and the best way to ensure that was by awarding public contracts only to companies that implemented a collective agreement.”

The meeting and rally outside the European Parliament on June 7th were followed by a one-day conference at the European Economic and Social Committee. The press was invited to register for the event.

Meetings & Events




PHSDialogue Project: 1st PHS Social Dialogue Plenary Session in Brussels 14 May

14 May 2024, 9h-16h CET | UNI Europa & EFSI Offices in Brussels

- Joint UNI & EFFAT Preparatory Meeting (morning, UNI Europa office)
- 1st PHS Social Dialogue Plenary Session (afternoon, EFSI office)

UNI Care Europa affiliates can register using the registration form below.



Protected: Commerce and Tourism EWC Network – 22 May 2024




Commerce and Tourism EWC network meeting