For Hotels, Cleaning Is Key. But Cleaners Say Their Jobs Are Under Assault.
In the past four months, nearly every major hotel brand in the world has announced a cleaning program highlighting new disinfecting and sterilizing procedures. Many companies are consulting with medical organizations; some are using robots; all say they are cleaning more than ever before. Their messaging is clear: Hotels are very clean.But many of the housekeepers who scrub, dust, vacuum and sanitize hotels in the United States say that companies are using the procedures and guidelines instituted in the wake of the coronavirus as an opportunity to give cleaners more work while cutting their hours, wages, benefits and, in some cases, jobs.At a time when both American travel and hotel occupancy are at historic lows, the hotel industry says its priority is keeping guests and employees safe while remaining open. The American Hotel and Lodging Association, an industry trade group with members including hotel brands, owners and management companies, has set new cleaning guidelines in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a program it calls Safe Stay. But housekeepers would like hotels to follow rules outlined by the World Health Organization.A particular point of contention between housekeepers, the largest hospitality union in North America and the hotels is whether hotel rooms should be cleaned daily. Many hotels have shifted away from daily cleaning, saying they hope to prevent employees as well as guests from contracting or spreading the coronavirus. They also feel that by keeping housekeepers out of rooms during a stay, they can assure guests that there hasn’t been a stranger in their room.
“The vast majority of our customers don’t want us cleaning their room while they are staying with us,” said Robert Kline, the chief executive and co-founder of the Chartres Lodging Group, a private equity investment firm that focuses on lodging. “They want to know the room is clean when they enter, but once they occupy that room they are saying, ‘Don’t come in.’”Housekeepers say cleaning rooms after someone checks out poses more of a risk to them and is more physically taxing than cleaning daily.“What we believe is that daily room cleaning is our arsenal to help fight the spread of Covid,” said Nia Winston, general vice president of Unite Here, the hotel and restaurant workers’ union that represents more than 300,000 hospitality workers. “Daily room cleaning is required in China and Hong Kong and other places that have successfully contained the virus.”