BOSTON, DEC. 2 -- Chambermaids at Boston's luxurious Copley Plaza Hotel have been ordered to put aside their mops and start scrubbing floors by hand, angering union leaders who said washing floors on hands and knees is demeaning.

"A maid is a maid, and that's just what she has to do," said Alan Tremain, president of Hotels of Distinction, which operates the Copley Plaza for its owner, John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co.

Tremain said the hotel maintains its reputation by being "a hands-on business, with a lot of attention to detail. The minute the bags are carried from the car, they are given to a bellboy in the lobby. The silver is polished when it's put on the table."

Copley's nearly 60 maids are not exempt, he said. Tremain said he believes that the Boston Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union Local No. 26 is protesting the order because contract negotiations are coming up in December 1988.

Local union President Dominic Bozzotto said the hotel's maids were ordered Nov. 10 to turn in their mops. Signs in the hotel directed the women, who are paid $7.15 an hour to start:

"There will be no mops used in the rooms of this hotel until further notice! Please help yourself to as many clean rags as you like for hand washing floors."