Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Increased Participation among Cleaners as a Strategy to Improve Quality and Occupational Health

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Increased Participation among Cleaners as a Strategy to Improve Quality and Occupational Health

Article excerpt

Introduction

The aim of this paper is to summarize and discuss the effects of an organizational change within a public cleaning division in a Swedish municipality. The effects have been evaluated from both an organizational and an individual perspective. The main purpose of the organizational change was to improve the health of the cleaners; additionally, it was to improve the efficiency and quality of the cleaning service in order to avoid outsourcing as well as be better prepared in case of competition. Outsourcing and increasing competition are strong global trends within the public sector today, including among Swedish municipalities (Kamp et al. 2013, TNS SIFO 2012). In Sweden, cleaning service in particular has been a major target of these new arrangements as a cost-cutting strategy (TNS SIFO 2012). From an individual perspective, this trend appears to worsen the cleaner's work conditions and further increase the risk of work-related disorders, which is already very common among cleaners (EU-OSCHA 2009). There is a gap of knowledge regarding other alternatives, other than outsourcing and increased competition, which could be economically advantageous and also improve the cleaners' health. The ambition of this paper is to fill that gap. Additionally, if it is possible to show how a good work environment for cleaners can have a positive effect on the cleaning organization's profit as well, it may have a positive impact for cleaners also in the private sector as cleaners' work environments do not seem to be improved when cleaning services are made more efficient in order to save money (Søgaard et al. 2006).

The paper starts by introducing the trends within the cleaning sector in Sweden and how this affects the well-being of the cleaners. The paper then describes the methodology of the study together with a presentation of the subject of the study-the public cleaning division. The achieved results of the study are then presented and is later followed by a discussion section and conclusions.

Cleaners in the modern economy

The public sector, both global and in Sweden, is today strongly affected by privatization and outsourcing (Christensen and Lægreid 2007, Kamp et al. 2013, TNS SIFO 2012). This increases the competition and puts a great deal of emphasis on low prices, which leads to change the work situation for many occupational groups. The cleaning business is no exception and outsourcing of public cleaning services has become more common, as public organizations try to reduce their costs by focusing on their core business and outsourcing activities that are considered to play a supporting role (Aguiar and Herod 2006, EU-OSCHA 2009, Ryan 2012, Søgaard et al. 2006). In Sweden the outsourcing of public cleaning services has become a very strong trend, and many municipalities in Sweden have outsourced cleaning services today due to both financial and political reasons (Sundin and Rapp 2006, TNS SIFO 2012). Also within the private sector cleaning services are being outsourced when companies want to focus on the core business. This has led to price war and destructive competition among the growing number of cleaning companies, resulting in worsened job conditions and work intensification for cleaners, along with insecure employment situations (Abbasian and Hellgren 2012, Sundin and Rapp 2006). In a not yet published report by Almega,1 96% of 1,225 investigated public procurements of cleaning services between 2009 and 2011 was made on the basis of lowest cost only. Factors like quality, hygiene, and the cleaners' work environment were not considered important. This has also been recognized in international studies (see, e.g., EU-OSCHA 2009). In order to survive, the cleaning agencies are forced to cut their costs, and because a cleaning agency does not have many other costs except for the personnel, the situation becomes worse (EU-OSCHA 2009, Holley and Rainnie 2012). The cleaning sector, like the industrial sector, has also started to adopt lean, or lean-inspired, organizational strategies as an attempt to save time and money (Aguiar and Herod 2006, EU-OSCHA 2009, LO2 2012, Puech 2007). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.