Public money should be used to ensure good conditions and fair competition in the cleaning sector. UNI Europa and EFCI – the EU social partners in the industrial cleaning sector – have teamed up to call on the European Commission for action to this end.
In their joint statement, they stress the need to move away from using lowest price as the overarching criterion for attributing public tenders. Lowest price is the sole criteria for 50% of public contracts, often resulting in unsustainable levels of labour shortages. The statement puts forward seven policy solutions to the European Commission.
For a sector that has strong implications on public health and is regarded as essential for the collective wellbeing and the good functioning of our societies, allowing for both employers and workers to operate in the best structural conditions is fundamental. Public authorities constitute a very large client base for the industrial cleaning industry in Europe. The contract-awarding conditions they set in this context have a significant impact on the possibility to provide quality services and maintain high social and working standards for workers while safeguarding the financial viability of businesses and the stability of the sector.
Public procurement can also play a major role in strengthening the functioning and reach of collective bargaining in the sector, supporting the representative social partners reinforce their institutional capacity. In conclusion of their declaration, both social partners call on the European Commission to consider intervening on some shortcomings of current provisions on public procurement, for instance by prohibiting clauses that forbid price-revision of awarded contracts (especially as a consequence of structural phenomena like high inflation) or restricting participation in tenders to actors involved in collective bargaining.
Lorenzo Mattioli, President of EFCI, commented: “In some EU countries, public procurement accounts for approximately 50% of the turnover. And as the percentage of the provision of services increases over the provision of goods or the realization of public works in the context of public procurement, there is a need to rapidly review the approach of public authorities to how they tender. In times of high inflation like these, for many employers it has become simply impossible to keep up with the cost increases they are subject to. As responsible employers, we need to be put in the right conditions to continue delivering quality for our end-users and offering the best conditions to our staff while keeping our activities profitable – something a system based on the supremacy of the lowest-price criterion cannot allow sustainably”.
Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa, said: “Cleaners have seen their working conditions degraded over the years. Instead of addressing the problem, public money has been fueling it. By putting price above all other considerations, they are squeezing both workers and employers. Public procurement should elevate collective bargaining as a motor for decent conditions and fair competition.”