The National Contract Cleaners Associa- tion (NCCA) aims to level the cleaning industry playing field to ensure that big and small companies operate on a regulated basis, Gauteng chairperson Patrick Makhubela tells Engineering News.
The NCCA’s goal is to manage member companies and ensure they abide by a strict code of ethics, as well as comply with all statutory requirements relating to labour legislation, taxes, levies, insurance requirements and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
A new development in the cleaning industry will see member companies undergoing a yearly compliance audit, much like the internal audits performed at large corporations, to ensure that NCCA members toe the line.
The audit will entail companies being audited on the same basic requirements as any other operational company, says Makhubela.
Statutory requirements include a check- list covering issues such as the payment of all relevant taxes and wages, the company’s contribution to the Contract Cleaning National Provident Fund and the Unemploy- ment Insurance Fund, as well as proof that its books balance.
Also on the association’s agenda is skills development. Makhubela notes that, currently, there is a lack of skilled and trained workers in the higher skills levels, such as managerial and supervisory positions, owing to the low remuneration structure which has historically existed in the industry.
As a result, the cleaning industry has had to attract skills from supporting industries, such as the retail and hospitality industries, to compensate for the skills shortage in its own industry.
This has since changed, as the remuneration structure has been improved and skilled workers can now be attracted and retained within the cleaning industry itself. This has also had a positive influence on the development of people within the industry, says Makhubela.
“Skills training is an integral part of cleaning, as people require training before being placed on the job,” he says. He also disagrees with the notion that the cleaning industry is for unskilled people, as cleaning requires a skill that must be acquired through training.
Cleaners must be trained in safety procedures and the correct use of equipment, and also acquire technical knowledge on cleaning.
The NCCA, which is directly involved with the Services Sector Education and Training Authority (SSeta), is embarking on a five-year strategy plan to improve the training of over 100 000 people within the industry.
The association was instrumental in develop- ing the cleaning unit standards and associated skills programmes for the National Qualifica- tions Framework (NQF) Levels 1 to 4.
The section of SSeta that serves the cleaning industry in further training cleaning-industry employees is being revitalised with the help of the NCCA.
“Our objective as an industry is, over the next five years, to have all our employees achieve between a Level 1 and Level 5 NQF qualification,” says Makhubela.
The main driver behind the success of the industry, besides managing the local cleaning industry’s reputation successfully, is operators managing their own companies professionally and compliantly.
Being compliant means reviewing one’s individual in-house or outsourced skills plan to achieve an industrywide NQF Level 1 for the employees, states Makhubela.
The SSeta effectively allows employers to claim back their levies from the Setas in the form of grants, specifically for the upskilling of employees.
Meanwhile, Makhubela states the industry is currently sound, as most corporates have realised the benefit of outsourcing cleaning and related services.
He notes that this situation can only improve, owing to the involvement of the cleaning industry in virtually every other industry in the country.
Labour, which drives the cleaning industry, however, remains an ongoing challenge. Labour constitutes the biggest cost of doing business in the cleaning and related-services industry.
With an ever-increasing employee figure of about 100 000, the most prevalent labour challenge is wage negotiations with unions, which demand higher wages for members.
The NCCA continually plays a balancing act in terms of negotiations among unions and employers in ensuring that the threat of a possible strike is dealt with.
The NCCA attended the Interclean Amsterdam 2012 conference, hosted by global cleaning industry association the International Sanitary Services Association (ISSA) in May.
As a member of the ISSA, the NCCA can interact globally with the rest of the cleaning industry.
“With the global interaction platform made available through conferences and associations such as this one, the lead time for technologies to reach South Africa is much shorter than it has been in the past,” says Makhubela.
The conference is an opportunity for South African companies to interact with international suppliers to import the latest cleaning technologies and systems.
However, Makhubela says the local market tends to take a while to absorb new technologies, owing to misconceptions about the cleaning industry that still exist.
Meanwhile, the move towards green industries, while welcomed, remains challenging, as cleaning service providers must find greener cleaning solutions, as well as products, equipment and chemicals.
There is a continual need to change the way companies clean by sourcing green products that are biodegradable and recyclable.
Makhubela feels that the biggest potential for growth in the industry lies in the public healthcare sector, as it remains one of the largest untargeted areas by the cleaning services industry.
State hospitals are one of the main service providers to the majority of people in the country and Makhubela feels that, rather than worry about cleaning, they should focus on their core business of providing high-quality healthcare services.
The cleaning industry has the ability to manage, absorb and train the existing workers in the healthcare sector but feels that government needs to provide it with the opportunity to do so.
Meanwhile, plans are under way to register the NCCA as the official professional body with SSeta for the industry.
This will assist the industry in ensuring that all its registered service providers are trained according to the required level and that it focuses on equipping the local industry to be in line with global standards.
Further, Makhubela reveals that the NCCA is in the process of rebranding itself.
The value of the entire local cleaning industry, from in-house to outsourced, from supplier to cleaner, is estimated at about R5-billion, with the number of NCCA- registered contract cleaning companies being just more than 400.