Although they are not nurses, they were on the front line during the worst moments of the Covid-19 pandemic. While the end of the health crisis is near, cleaning workers are still waiting for recognition of their profession. Yet they have to juggle with increasingly precarious contracts in a sector that is struggling to recruit.
Laura* (name changed) arrived in Luxembourg in 1992 and now has three contracts with three different employers, including one with a private person. She has to juggle between the hours and the time lost in transport, which is not always easy: "I have been working for a hairdresser for two hours since 2011, on Mondays when the salon is closed. This suits me well and I'm used to it, so I want to find contracts that combine with this one in terms of working hours." During the lockdowns, she was able to take advantage of short-time working, but only for this contract. She also continued to clean a private home illegally for three hours a week, despite the risks involved.
Juggling three contracts
Today Laura juggles between her three contracts, but it's not easy, especially as cleaning companies prefer short and part-time contracts: "I've just started via an agency in offices, every day from 4.30pm to 6.30pm, but the employees are still there! It's difficult to work in good conditions, especially as I lose a lot of time with transport. But the agency doesn't offer more hours when I would like to work more, and it's a one-month contract for the moment. They want to see if it works and avoid sick leave", she says.
Estelle Winter is responsible for the cleaning sector within the OGBL. She regrets that the cleaning agents were not considered from the beginning of the pandemic as being "in the front line", whereas the needs were enormous to disinfect everything in companies, public spaces and hospitals. The employees in the sector were very much in demand, especially as the activity was obviously not telecommutable. Although at first no one was equipped with the appropriate equipment, this eventually happened, after several long weeks of maximum risk-taking.
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