When will robots replace hotel cleaning staff

Cleaning industry: "On roller skates through the office"

The Deutsche Bahn organizes cleaning robot races. Even human cleaning staff increasingly have to reach top speed, says industry expert Viveka Ansorge.

Is that still being controlled by a person or is it already a machine? Photo: dpa

taz: Ms. Ansorge, when hardly anyone wants to become a building cleaner - the drop-out rate in the industry is almost 50 percent: isn't it nice when this work is done by robots?

Viveka Ansorge: In itself, it is good when technology relieves people of hard work. And in building cleaning, the work is so difficult that people can actually no longer hold out eight-hour days. Most of the time people are already working part-time, especially for maintenance cleaning, i.e. regular cleaning in the office, company or school.

What is so exhausting there?

The cleaners also have machines for cleaning floors, but they constantly have to bend down, lift things, and lug them back and forth. In addition: You can do that if you have the time. But if you do this in a hurry, it will get worse. And most of them have the problem with routine cleaning.


Because the companies in the industry have to pay collective wages, they are pushing the pace incredibly fast in order to reduce personnel costs. So you're putting more and more work on people in the same amount of time. The cleaning people say: “We ride through the office on roller skates.” But if these new machines also set the pace ...

Is everything getting more stressful?

Yes, then it could be that the use of the technology increases the time pressure even further, which is passed on to the employees by the shift and property managers anyway. The machine could become the new pacemaker, so to speak.

Robot race Deutsche Bahn turns an order into an event: On Tuesday at 12.30 p.m., cleaning robots from different manufacturers compete against each other for cleaning in the main train station. The winner can look forward to a two-year contract with DB.

Top-up In Berlin, 29,539 employees subject to social security contributions work in cleaning services, of which 15.6 percent are top-ups who receive social benefits on top of their wages. Of the 5,489 mini-job seekers, 32.5 percent have to increase. Nationwide, around 8 percent of mini-jobbers in all industries have to increase, in Berlin just under 22 percent. (taz)

It is also an industry that employs many low-skilled people. Shouldn't one fear that the use of robots will destroy many jobs for people who cannot find a job anywhere else?

It can be, but it has to be investigated first. In fact, that would be a problem because the industry is already adorning itself by giving work to people who otherwise have poor chances in the job market. But of course the introduction of such robots is an attempt to save manpower. In comparison, the industry is still very labor-intensive.

That means, the profit can be increased here.

Yes, because the personnel costs make up a large part of the calculation for an order, an attempt is always made to reduce costs at this point. One speaks here of "area performance compaction".

What's this?

Cleaning companies offer certain area services. This means that you can clean so and so much surface in an hour. Increased performance means that the area to be cleaned increases per hour. So attempts are made to reduce wages. The employer side complains all the time that - unlike in hotels and restaurants, where only the statutory minimum wage applies - they have to pay at least 9.05 euros in the east and 10.30 euros in the west.

There is also the trend to work in "marginal working hours". What does that mean?

According to the collective agreement, night surcharges must be paid between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. So there is hardly any work at night - except on the train, at airports and the like. But during the day there is no cleaning because the customers don't want it - at least that's what employers say.

Viveka Ansorge,

56, works for the consulting company ArbeitGestalten and was responsible for the building cleaning industry report, which was funded by the Senate Department for Labor.

How come?

That comes from the era of the wave of privatization in the 1990s. Until then, cleaning staff were often public or in-house employees. Then private external companies were commissioned. So unfamiliar people came into the offices - they could be a nuisance. In other countries, such as Scandinavia, it is quite common to clean during the day.

What does this mean for the cleaning staff?

On the one hand, they are desperately wanted, the industry suffers severely from a shortage of skilled workers. But on the other hand, as a mother with school-age children, how do you want to go to work between six and nine in the morning before the office or shop opens?

How do the companies get employees at all?

They just don't get it. The companies would like nothing more than to be able to clean during the day, then they could employ the young mothers in particular again. The result is that you have shared duties, so-called double shifts: you clean the bakery around the corner in the morning and the hairdresser in the evening. That's why there are so many mini-jobs and marginal employment - and people can't make a living from it. The replenishment rate is high and precarious work is widespread.