Industry Leaders Forum: Kim Puxty, BSCAA

How was 2021 for the BSCAA? What were the highlights? What were the challanges?

One of the main highlights throughout this year was keeping members informed and updated on the ever-changing rules and laws that kept coming into place.

Mainly, this related to COVID-19 and public health orders, with regulations changing all the time depending on lockdowns, etc and was complicated by the fact that changes differed by state and territory.

We strived to educate our members in the best way possible, introducing a range of informative webinars throughout the year.

Another highlight for us was our rebranding, unveiling a new brand logo and improved website that offers more resources for BSCAA members. We really focused the rebrand on helping us deliver more consistent messaging and being able to provide the latest information as and when required.

As far as challenges go, getting our message across to both federal and state government departments in relation to issues affecting the cleaning industry was a big struggle.

It was difficult trying to persuade various governments that cleaning was an essential service to be maintained during COVID-19 lockdowns, as well as petitioning the government to increase visa working hours for cleaners within the industry, many of whom were struggling because they did not have access to schemes such as JobKeeper.

We felt our industry was not being valued by governments as much as it should and needed to be, which was a difficult pill to swallow and something we worked hard to correct.

We made great progress as an association with a number of initiatives gaining traction – such as our brand evolution and what this embodied.

We strived to remain at the forefront of all COVID-related challenges throughout the year, working hard to ensure our members were always informed and constantly updated.

This meant considerable time was spent analysing, reviewing, and deciphering some of the complex and contradictory government directions handed out.

What will be the immediate focus for the BSCAA in 2022?

Compliance will be a major priority for us in the next 12 months. We are working on developing a compliance program and cleaning performance standard.

This will go alongside a new affordable membership structure where members have the option to become compliant, allowing themselves to become accredited by our compliance program.

It is our intention that these members are then recognised as certified by property owners and facilities managers, helping them find more contracts on a more consistent basis.

We understand that there is a need for government funded courses within our industry. It is important in the development of a specific skill sets and a career pathway within the industry. BSCAA’s focus will be to collaborate with government bodies that help drive that message.

We are also working towards the consolidation of resources to provide better support and a more effective association for our members.

To do this, we will start appointing new salaried roles within our organisation as a way of driving better advocacy and growth. In turn, this should help us improve on the support and efficiency mentioned earlier.

As a member driven organisation our overall strategy is about improving and delivering better results for our members in 2022.

We are also looking to centralise and standardise back of house systems and functions from state to the national level, enabling us to strategise better than ever before. Put it this way, it is going to be an exciting year for BSCAA members in 2022.

What will be the BSCAA’s advocacy priorities in 2022?

Visa working hours for sure. This is really hurting many businesses as the current visa conditions limit how many hours some workers can work within the cleaning industry.

We have campaigned all year for this to change, really trying to get those hours extended so cleaners are not leaving our industry for other sectors with more relaxed rules.

Furthermore, the focus is definitely on the availability of staff. Changing the visa rules will be one step we take to make more staff available, but we are also lobbying government to open the international borders to international students.

Again, we hope this drives more people into the cleaning industry, helping our members find employees that allow them to conduct their work more efficiently.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the industry in 2022?

Looking back on this year, we think there will be four main challenges for the industry in 2022:

  • Recruiting quality cleaning staff
  • Staffing shortages leading to increased costs through higher wages
  • Adjusting to changes in the new post pandemic environment
  • Working alongside governments on required policy and legislative changes

It is getting harder than ever to find cleaners or those seeking to become cleaners because there simply are not sufficient workers available.

Therefore, one of our top priorities is to lower the barriers and encourage more cleaners to come forward. It is an issue now and we can see it being an issue for the time being.

What is more, we find that – because of the shortage of cleaners – there is increased pressure on wages, well above the award. Many businesses are struggling to meet contract budgets because the payment demands for cleaners are so high.

We also see 2022 as an opportunity to create an affordable compliance/accreditation model that cleaning contractors of all sizes can obtain to enhance the professionalism and authenticity of their companies.

With the submission of a Cleaning Performance Standards with Australian Standards, the development of this standard will commence in 2022.

The Cleaning Performance Standards will give the industry consistent terminology, definitions, measuring and a foundation on which licensing and auditor qualifications can be built.

BSCAA sees this as an opportunity to further raise the professionalism of the industry and will continue work on this project in 2022 with Standards Australia.

Ironically, the pandemic has given us a significant window of opportunity. It has certainly raised the importance of hygiene and cleaning to everyone enabling us to capitalise upon it through the promotion of new services and technological enhancements.

Is there a message you would like to share with the industry?

Overall, our main message is just a massive well done to everyone within the industry throughout 2021.

We know it has been such a difficult year, and we are incredibly proud of the exceptional job everyone within the sector has done during the pandemic.

Cleaners and contractors have been on the frontlines, protecting millions of fellow Australians from this deadly virus by providing expert cleaning services. It is a shame the industry does not always get the recognition it deserves for this, but just know that you have made an enormous difference and Australia wouldn’t have been able to cope without you.

We would also like to add that it has been so impressive seeing how everyone has adapted to the ever-changing environment over the last 12 months. We have proved that we are essential and that without cleaners, no business or organisation can function.

As we move into the future, do not forget that the value of the services you provide is recognised and is under the spotlight more than it was 12 months ago.

It is up to us, as an industry, to keep this momentum going and to remind the broader property industry that cleaning well is both an art and science that cannot be ignored.

This article first appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of INCLEAN magazine. 

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