Housekeepers Say Some New Cleaning Regulations Do More Harm
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many hotels have changed their operations, particularly when it comes to keeping things clean and sanitized. Although these guidelines and practices are designed to keep guests and workers safe, many U.S. housekeepers tell The New York Times that companies are using the rules to give them more work, while reducing their hours, wages, benefits and even jobs.
One example, the Times notes, is a move away from hotel rooms being cleaned daily. Many have walked away from this policy because they feel that it will help them better protect workers and customers, while also guaranteeing to guests that there has not been a stranger in their rooms. “The vast majority of our customers don’t want us cleaning their room while they are staying with us,” Chartres Lodging Group Chief Executive and co-founder Robert Kline tells the newspaper. “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 also tell the Times that cleaning rooms when guests check out is more of a risk and more physically taxing. “What we believe is that daily room cleaning is our arsenal to help fight the spread of COVID,” states Nia Winston, the general vice president of Unite Here, a hotel and restaurant workers’ union. “Daily room cleaning is required in China and Hong Kong and other places that have successfully contained the virus.”
After the loss of nearly half of the 16.9 million jobs in the U.S. leisure and hospitality sector in March and April, the Times reports that fewer housekeepers are working and have to clean rooms where several days’ worth of trash, dust and germs have accumulated. They also have to clean them in the same amount of time that is set aside for daily cleaning and are getting fewer hours of work each week.
One employee who has had to cope with the task of cleaning rooms after guests check out is Pauline Petit-Homme, who works at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. Petite-Homme was told that there are not enough guests to bring in more housekeepers. However, “They are still busy,” she told the Times. “They don’t have no respect for the housekeeping. We work very hard in the housekeeping and now we do more work in the same time and it’s hard.”
The Times also spoke to Josh Herman, the vice president of marketing and public relations at the hotel, who said it is focused on returning to former occupancy levels that will enable it to re-employ many workers. In addition, the hotel has followed American Hotel and Lodging Association guidance since reopening and earned positive guest feedback.
“While the enhanced cleaning protocols are most costly to execute, both in supplies and labor, the health and safety of our guests and team members are always our highest priority,” he told the Times. “We continue to work closely with our housekeeping team in adjusting schedules to accommodate for these new requirements.”