Custodial Team Cleaning Failed the COVID Test
(This article first appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
In the March-April 2019 issue, we raised the alarm that the Custodial Team Cleaning Program (CTC), along with its chemicals, was doomed to fail. We raised the alarm that CTC drastically reduced custodial staff employees by over 30 percent across the country. Cleaning Frequencies were gutted to bare bones and cleaning chemicals and tools were “standardized.” We loudly warned the USPS in private and during the national interest arbitration that the safety and well-being of our employees is a serious concern and is at stake. Unfortunately, the warning and our efforts fell on deaf ears as postal management marched forward blindly towards the cliff.
Unfortunately, since inception, the CTC program deteriorated and management failed to make necessary suggested changes after our Kansas City joint meeting, during which they promised to do better. No wonder when the pandemic hit in March 2020, the Postal Service was not prepared for the COVID-needed cleaning.
The lack of adequate custodian staffing led to the creation of several emergency “bandage” measures to meet the daunting tasks required of COVID-19 cleaning, including the unilateral creation of MMO-31-20, aka “Deep Cleaning.” The creation of “Deep Cleaning” is proof that CTC does not currently provide for necessary, regular extensive cleaning.
The CTC chemicals, sold to the Postal Service as “good enough to drink,” did not meet the standard that is required of the CDC. MMO-31-20 is management’s temporary solution to a permanent CTC problem. The APWU at all levels worked with management to jointly combat the national COVID-19 outbreak, which requires additional cleaning frequencies.
The APWU, like other unions, agreed to temporary exemptions to help with the pandemic, temporarily allowing the usage of “Contract Custodians.” Other noncustodial personnel were allowed to cross the occupational group to keep all postal employees safe. However, the CTC Program problem will not go away via a temporary bandage measure.
It is time that the USPS revisit its Custodian Team Cleaning once again. It is time to upgrade the chemicals, as promised, and abide by CDC cleaning requirements at all times, not just during a pandemic.
It is unfortunate to report that at the time of writing this article, thousands of fellow postal employees are infected with COVID-19, and 150 of our fellow brothers and sisters have died since the beginning of the pandemic from COVID-19.
It is our collective, humble opinion that the pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to completely overhaul CTC, return to the bargaining table and seriously negotiate with the union, using a new acceptable Center for Disease Control (CDC) Cleaning standards that will meet the test of safety going forward.
Since our 2019 article, we have received several emails and telephone calls concerning blatant safety violations, that not only puts our custodians’ safety in jeopardy, but also the safety of all postal employees. Let’s face it: CTC failed miserably, with a grade of “F minus.” As usual, we would love to hear from you at Maint-HQ-Update@apwu.org.
CDC RECOMMENDATIONS: CLEANING AND DISINFECTING YOUR FACILITY
Areas unoccupied for 7 or more days need only routine cleaning. Maintain existing cleaning practices for outdoor areas.
Consider the type of surface and how often the surface is touched. Prioritize disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
Keep in mind the availability of cleaning products and personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for cleaners and disinfectants.
Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)- approved disinfectant against COVID-19 and read the label to make sure it meets your needs.
Continue or revise your plan based on appropriate disinfectant and PPE availability. Dirty surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water prior to disinfection. Routinely disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily.