The Building Service Contractors Association of New Zealand (BSCNZ) has welcomed the government’s decision to move to alert level three from next week, with the association urging cleaning service providers to be prepared for the post-coronavirus bounce back.
Ian Kebbell, managing director of Wellington-based Supercare and vice president of the BSCNZ board, said while cleaning frequencies and the scope of work will significantly increase for contractors from next week, so too will the emphasis on cleanliness standards and customer expectations.
“For so long the industry has been viewed as a necessary overhead, but we have been undervalued in terms of the contribution we make to workplaces and businesses.
“[COVID-19] has highlighted the importance of the work we do. People have now seen the direct impact of the spread of an infectious disease and the impact not just on staff and absenteeism, but the impact on the entire business,” Kebbell told INCLEAN NZ.
“I’m confident we’re going to see increased cleaning frequencies and greater emphasis on the scope that we do. We will not be just a service businesses can cut to protect the bottom line. There is a real investment now in the services we provide.
“At the same time, it puts pressure on us as an industry because the expectations are going to be higher. We have to step up and make sure the services we deliver meet these new standards.”
On Monday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the countrywide lockdown would stay at alert level four for another week before being lifted to level three from late Monday, 27 April.
Alert level three restrictions will remain for a minimum of two weeks, before the decision to move is revisited on May 11.
Under level three restrictions lockdown measures will be eased, allowing many more businesses to resume, such as construction, manufacturing and more primary industries.
Retail and takeaway food services will be able operate as long as there is no physical contact with customers.
While public venues, such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds, markets remain closed, business premises will be allowed to open but cannot physically interact with customers.
People must work from home unless that is not possible and physically distancing of two metres outside home (including on public transport) must be maintained, or one metre in controlled environments like schools and workplaces.
Sarah McBride, CEO of the BSCNZ, said the introduction of split shifts by many businesses to minimise staff to staff contact will also impact cleaning staffing levels.
“There’s going to be a lot of re-arranging of offices and common areas so many businesses will be currently rethinking their office plans entirely.
“Cleaners will play an important role making sure environments are laid out correctly [to ensure social distancing] and possible split shifts of workforces will have an impact as it will mean contractors might have double the amount of cleaning for one contract.
“Cleaners are going to become more visible to New Zealanders now. Instead of cleaning at night, [staff] will now see cleaners during the day, so we won’t be so much the ‘invisible workforce’ anymore which is a positive step for the industry.”
McBride said the association’s members have witnessed an increase in pre-clean enquiries, from both businesses preparing to open under level three as well as those preparing to re-start under alert level two conditions.
“Cleaning businesses need to adapt their offering and start looking at services we might not have previously offered. The industry can help offer practical solutions to ensure businesses are compliant.”
“Commercial cleaning is going to be industry that gives people the confidence to walk back into work.”
For those preparing to restart cleaning services from next week, Kebbell advises to reach out to customers “sooner rather than later.”
“Don’t wait for [customers] to come to you. As an industry we need to be reaching out, communicating and offering solutions for our customers.”
Business groups urge for more clarity
John Milfird, CEO of Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Business Central, said the announcement is a step in the right direction, but further clarity is needed about aspects of the new alert level three rules.
“Furthermore, we must remind business operators, owners, and employers to stick to the level four rules around social distancing, and health and safety guidelines. The weeks’ notice is not an excuse to begin flouting the rules when we have all worked so hard to restrict the spread of the virus,” Milford said.
“We don’t want to lose the gains we have made and have to return to level four restrictions again. It is incredibly important we maintain distances and only enter premises if absolutely necessary.
“The level three rules are a good balance between keeping Kiwis safe and reopening the economy. I know there will still be many businesses that will be disappointed they cannot operate fully, but these measures are important for us to be able to get to that stage.”
Leeann Watson, CEO of Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, said most businesses will welcome the announcement, with many prepared and ready to begin operating, including many manufacturers and exporters who have been preparing for alert level three over the last few weeks.
“The slightly longer period of being in alert Level four than anticipated gives businesses more time to prepare to a return to operations in a way that meets health and safety requirements while taking into account some of the complexities such as continuing to operate remotely and juggling childcare before moving to Alert Level 3 next week.
“While we support the government’s decision today around a balanced approach, the quickly evolving landscape over the last three weeks reinforces the importance for businesses to plan for different disruptions and different scenarios, particularly with regards to health and safety, and employment relations – and be agile in the way in which they respond.
The EMA said many Kiwi businesses will be relieved that the country is going back to alert level three next week, but there are others who will be disappointed their sector will continue to be locked down.
Brett O’Riley, CEO of the EMA, said the government’s approach to allowing people to get back to business safely makes sense, and its manufacturing and construction members will be particularly pleased.
“This seems to strike a good balance between our country’s health and the economy, but people must be vigilant and stick strictly to health and safety guidelines.
“We know that companies with international connections got an early start on some of their crisis management and business continuity, so they’re all ready to go.
“For others, it’s now a matter of nailing down their process to be most profitable with what they can do and ensuring their plan to keep their people safe is watertight.”
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