Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cleaners in Singapore

Recently, I spoke with an elderly cleaner aunty at a hawker centre. She seemed to be in her 70s, shrivelled skin and her hands were shaking as she held the food-stained tray with one hand and wiped the table with her other hand.

There have been quite a bit of news recently about this thing called Progressive Wage Model being legislated within the cleaning sector, and i wondered how it has impacted cleaners like herself in Singapore. 

She shares that she now earns $1,100 each month, since the Progressive Wage Model was lobbied by NTUC in recent years (compared to a stagnant $800 monthly salary). She also hopes to earn more also as finances are tight for her, with medical bills and rental take up the bulk of her salary. It is crazy because looking at the amount of work she does everyday, she deserves so much more. And what makes it worse, most people don't even appreciate the work the cleaners do. I can't say I do a lot for them but well I do hope to brighten their day by smiling more and talking to them. 

With PWM being legislated as of 1st September, cleaners can now expect a career path where there is a built-in progressive wage structure to be adhered by cleaning companies who used to pay cleaners low wages, to maximize profit margins. So instead on cost and headcount, companies now compete, based on productivity instead.

The new legislation for PWM which cleaners can look forward to includes:
·      Increase to a base wage of at least $1,000
·      Acquire new skills (e.g. operating cleaning machines which makes work easier)
·      More ladders implemented for career progression for all cleaners, both outdoor and indoor
·      Wage increase each year with added productivity and value to the company (no more stagnation of wages)
From the Progressive Wage Model shown below, you are able to see the wage rate given to the following industries:

Something that NTUC Secretary General Lim Swee Say mentioned recently that struck a chord with me: “We believe that, starting from today, we should no longer look at our cleaners as cheap labour. Starting from today, let us look together to treat our cleaners as a manpower resource ... just like the way we treat other (types of) manpower.”

Indeed, these are the people we should appreciate because without them, we'd not be able to enjoy a clean environment. 

How often do we get to thank them and show them how much we appreciate their work?

I do hope that the relevant employers would take into consideration the pay adjustments of hardworking individuals, so that they are able to enjoy a better standard of living. In fact, PWM should be applied to all other sectors too and not just limited to the cleaning sector.