UNIONS are calling for pay rises and better conditions for cleaners and security guards in recognition of the crucial role they have played during the coronavirus crisis.

A report published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to mark International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Guards, showed that low pay and job insecurity are “rife” in both sectors.

The research suggested that those working in low-paid, elementary occupations have suffered the highest death rates during the crisis, with security guards experiencing the highest mortality rate of any profession. Despite subjecting themselves to huge risk, many remain on low pay and on insecure contracts, the TUC said.

It said its analysis showed cleaners earn, on average, one-third less than the median worker, and security guards earn one-quarter less.

Three out of five cleaners and two out of five security guards are paid below the so-called real living wage of £9.30 an hour, it was estimated.

Workers in the two sectors are twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts than the workforce as a whole, said the TUC.

General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Cleaners and security guards have played a vital role during this crisis, often at great personal risk.

“It is not right that so many are on low pay and on insecure contracts. The Government and employers must do more to value the contribution overlooked key workers make.

“That means giving them the personal protective equipment they need, bringing services back in-house and working with unions to improve pay and conditions.”

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, which has been campaigning for better pay for cleaners in the rail industry, said: “The penny is dropping that the rampant outsourcing of our cleaners is a massive problem.

“For decades, cleaners have been called non-core, non-essential workers and outsourced, condemned to low pay and insecurity. Now we’re seeing the cost of that folly.”