Premier Inn has launched an investigation into unsavoury cleaning practices that are alleged to have been undertaken by housekeepers supplied by facilities management company ISS.
In last night's episode of Channel 4's Dispatches a housekeeper at Premier Inn London Bridge, in Borough High Street, was seen using the same dirty towel, discarded by a guest, to clean the entire bathroom, including the sink, bath and toilet.
The programme, made by independent production company Tigerlily, also claimed that staff were expected to work additional, unpaid hours in order the meet cleaning targets and had to sign a document saying that they had taken a 30-minute break, even if they had been unable to do so due to an excessive workload.
The allegations were made after an undercover reporter joined the hotel's housekeeping team as an employee of ISS.
A spokesperson for Whitbread-owned Premier Inn, the UK's largest hotel brand with more than 780 properties, said that it was committed to the people who work in its hotels and took the programme's allegations very seriously.
"We were very concerned to hear allegations of poor working practices by ISS at one of our hotels. We are in the process of investigating these allegations and our findings will be addressed directly with ISS."
The spokesperson said that Premier Inn directly employed the "vast majority" of its housekeeping team, none of which had been the subject of the allegations.
The company continued: "We have strict cleaning procedures and training, and the times we allocate to room cleaning have been proven over many years. We do not set a target of three rooms cleaned per hour. We ensure every room is cleaned to the exacting standards expected by our guests. That's why around 95% of guests give us a four or five star rating for cleanliness."
Premier Inn also rejected the suggestion that undue pressure was put on the housekeeping teams and insisted that its people were "our number one priority", highlighted that all team members are paid the National Living Wage or above, as well as offering "industry-leading training and development".
The company said it will "not tolerate suppliers who breach employment law" and will "take whatever action is necessary to resolve any issues".
A spokesperson for ISS also said that it has taken immediate steps to investigate the allegations.
The company said: "We have performed both internal and external investigations to analyse the alleged issues at our customer's site in question. We pride ourselves on the high levels of training we give staff at all levels within our business to ensure they can do their jobs properly and within their scheduled working hours. It is our policy to give new cleaners up to three days of training time and a month's grace to ensure they can achieve this.
"At the site in question we have conducted numerous audits including one in early January in conjunction with our customer and the results have always been good. We apply the National Living Wage at this site, just like we do at all the other sites, and it is not our policy in any way to ask our employees to work outside their contractual hours without pay.
"Regarding training in cleaning procedures, our training records show that all staff on site have gone through the required training which is conducted on site. If there has been an isolated incident, which goes against our procedures, we will take immediate action to remedy it."
Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy commented: "Channel 4's Dispatches has lifted the lid on Premier Inn's exploitative work practices, with many of its findings echoing what we have been told by the hotel chain's workers.
"The work until you drop culture, unremitting pressure on workers to hit unrealistic productivity targets, combined with staff not being paid for all the hours worked, are work practices you'd expect to find in a sweat shop not a leading hotel chain.
"Revelations such as these can cause severe reputational damage. This is at odds with Premier Inn's brand image as a family friendly hotel chain. Customers will expect better."
The programme sparked debate across social media.
Hospitality lecturer Amy Woodrow tweeted: "Very grim hygiene & cleanliness practices but unfortunately not just exclusive to Premier Inn. We have students on HSK placements in some of the best hotels in the city and it's not much better! Sometimes ignorance is bliss…"
Twitter user Kirsty posted: "This is horseshit I'm a housekeeper at Premier Inn and take pride in the rooms I clean and would never dream of using one towel to clean everything."
Jo Watson added: "I've been a housekeeper for over 10 years. I've worked in care homes, hospitals and of course…hotels. Currently watching Tweets by hashtag (Undercover in Premier Inn) it's good to hear people admit that it's a bloody hard job! Despite what people say."
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