Council consider recruiting robots to clean large areas in schools

Machines that are expected to focus on games and dining halls, as well as corridors, have been trialled by the local authority in recent months.

Renfrewshire council consider recruiting robots to clean large areas in schools Getty Images

Council chiefs have come under fire as they consider turning to ‘robotic cleaners’ to help clean large areas in Renfrewshire school buildings.

Machines that are expected to focus on games and dining halls, as well as corridors, have been trialled by the local authority in recent months.

It insists the equipment – known as collaborative robotics – would “supplement” existing cleaning roles and tackle “hard-to-fill vacancies” rather than replace workers themselves.

However, councillor Eddie Devine, who represents Paisley Southeast, has sounded the alarm over the idea – branding it a “cost-cutting exercise”.

The veteran politician is concerned the machines could be used to “get rid” of jobs but the council has said they would allow staff to “focus on other areas”.

Councillor Devine said: “Robots will not do the same job as a person, a worker, going in and out of school buildings.

“How are they going to move tables or chairs? It just seems crazy to me. For me, this idea is basically to cut costs and then at some point cut workers.

“They just want to replace human workers, it’s a cost-cutting exercise. These things are always the same.

“If workers leave the council for whatever reason and they have these machines, will they replace them?

“They might say it’s to allow workers to focus on other areas but they’ll use it to eventually get rid of the workforce.

“Inevitably, they’ll have to go back to humans because humans do the work better.”

The matter came to light in a report to the finance, resources and customer services policy board on Thursday.

It said: “Over the last six months, soft facilities management has been exploring the use of robotic scrubber dryers and sweepers.

“The service has been working with contractors to identify the best machines currently on the market.

“A facilitated demonstration of two machines has been undertaken to date, with both machines performing well during the trials.

“The plan would be to use the robotic machines to clean large areas, such as games halls, dining halls, corridors, and large vestibules areas in larger school premises.

“This has been shown to provide a better clean of the area and this would also allow current staff to focus on other areas within the premise.”

When contacted about the potential development, a council spokesperson said: “We have been trialling the use of different machines to clean large areas within our school buildings to complement existing cleaning roles.

“Initial demonstrations suggest the machines can complete this task effectively and we are developing a business case to consider this further, which would include machinery maintenance.

“We continue to actively recruit facilities officers and any use of this machinery would supplement existing roles and address hard-to-fill vacancies, enabling employees to focus on other areas.

“Any potential implementation would follow consideration of the business case and engagement with our employees, HR colleagues and trade unions.”

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