Sheffield staff “astonished” at being asked to clean up after themselves

The University and College Union has criticised plans to vacuum and wipe offices just once every few weeks

September 29, 2009

The University of Sheffield’s attempt to cut costs by reducing cleaning activity and asking staff to share bins and keep their desks tidy has been criticised by the University and College Union.

In a press release headlined “Clean your own desk and get rid of your bin says swine flu university after cleaning cutbacks”, the union said staff at the institution were “astonished” to receive a memo from managers stating that vacuuming would now take place only every two to three weeks.

The memo said university-wide recruitment restrictions on cleaning services meant administrative areas had to bear the brunt of gaps in the service. The cleaning of teaching and research areas would continue as normal, it added, pointing out that these areas are “critical for the student experience and income generation”.

Staff in administration and faculty offices were told that their bins would be emptied “every few days” and fixtures would receive a “damp wipe” every two to three weeks. “We’re not suggesting you get the vacuum out, but by keeping things tidy and clean around your desk you’ll help us focus on the other areas of your office,” the memo says.

Staff were also advised to pool bins to cut waste.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “The health and safety of staff is paramount and I am utterly amazed that the university is prepared to cut back on cleaning when it is under swine flu alert. The decision speaks volumes about its priorities – clearly profit and image matter more than people’s safety. Staff have the right to be able to work in clean offices.”

A university spokesperson said managers had agreed to meet the union to discuss concerns. “It is therefore very disappointing to the university that UCU has not followed the normal communication channels and has put out a press release using misleading and inflammatory language such as ‘swine flu university’.”

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