Wednesday 3 September 2014

Cleaners get wage boost with new law

They will start off with basic pay of $1,000 a month as licensing law takes effect
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 2 Sep 2014

EFFORTS to raise the incomes of the lowest-paid workers here received a significant boost yesterday, after a new law requiring cleaning companies to be licensed took effect.

They are now required to pay their cleaners at least $1,000 each month under a compulsory "wage ladder", where cleaners can get higher salaries as they gain better skills. The National Environment Agency (NEA) has issued licences to 1,001 cleaning firms.

With the latest change, cleaners, who are among the lowest paid here, will start off with a basic wage of $1,000 a month, and earn at least $1,600 if they progress to become supervisors.

So far, more than 26,000 local cleaners are on the wage ladder, said the Manpower Ministry, NEA, Singapore Workforce Development Agency and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) yesterday. All 38,000 local cleaners will be on the wage ladder by September next year.

Firms get a one-year reprieve for contracts signed before April 1 this year. But from September next year, they will have to pay all cleaners accordingly.

Labour chief Lim Swee Say, who visited cleaners at Yuhua housing estate in Jurong and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to mark the start of the mandatory licensing, said the wage ladder will boost cleaners' morale.

"We should no longer look at cleaners as cheap labour... Cleaners also have their career aspirations," said Mr Lim, who is the NTUC secretary-general.

Before the move to make licensing compulsory, the sector was unregulated and the exact number of cleaning firms operating was unknown.

The landmark move also promises to create fairer competition in an industry rife with aggressive price-cutting strategies. Companies were reported to have suppressed wages in a bid to win contracts, which resulted in cleaners' monthly salaries stagnating at around $800 in the past few years, according to official data.

Yesterday, cleaning firms said they look forward to a level playing field where firms cannot undercut others when bidding for new contracts by suppressing their workers' pay. "Everyone has to follow the rule now," said Mr Dennis Tan, general manager of LS 2 Services, which has 750 cleaners.

Mr Milton Ng, president of the Environmental Management Association of Singapore, which represents cleaning firms, said the tight labour market will benefit cleaners.

"If firms don't pay using the progressive wage model, workers will leave them."

Yesterday, the NEA also released official data on the cleaning sector for the first time.

More than 830 cleaning firms are small companies with 50 or fewer cleaners. Only 48 firms have more than 200 cleaners.

In total, the sector hires 52,000 cleaners, of which 38,000, or about two in three, are Singaporeans or permanent residents.

Mr Yeo Yew Meng, 51, who earns $1,800 a month supervising more than 30 cleaners at NTU, hopes to see his pay rise to $2,000.

Said Mr Yeo: "I did not study much when I was young; now I try to attend more courses because it can increase my pay."

More than 1,000 cleaning businesses licensed: NEA
Channel NewsAsia, 1 Sep 2014

A total of 1,001 cleaning businesses, with a total workforce of 52,000 cleaners, have been licensed since the new cleaning business licensing regime was introduced in April, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Monday (Sep 1).

The Environmental Public Health Amendment Bill came into force in April, which required all general cleaning businesses in Singapore to be licensed by September as part of efforts to raise the productivity and working conditions of the cleaning sector.

According to the NEA, all cleaning businesses that have applied so far have successfully obtained their licences.

NEA’s director-general for the Environmental Public Health Division, Mr Derek Ho, said: "We are pleased that more than 1,000 cleaning businesses have come onboard and are supportive of the cleaning licensing regime. We believe this will translate to better performing workers and more satisfied service buyers through enhanced service quality and higher standards."


Starting Monday, licensed companies will have to pay resident cleaners - deployed under new cleaning contracts entered into on or after Apr 1, 2014 - wages based on the Progressive Wage Model. More than 26,000 resident cleaners are currently being paid wages under the model, the NEA said. By Sep 1 next year, companies will have to pay progressive wages to all resident cleaners, including those under existing contracts.

According to labour chief Lim Swee Say, cleaning companies can no longer depress wages in a bid to win contracts. Instead, the licensing scheme will push companies to focus more on improving productivity.

Mr Lim said: "So in other words, if I can compete for this contract by making better use of labour-saving devices, with better trained workers, I will be able to do the same job but more efficiently, with less or fewer manpower, but more importantly, with higher productivity."

He added that the scheme will also lift the image of cleaners. "We hope that we will look at the cleaners more as a human resource, more as a precious manpower, rather than cheap labour. So, in other words, just like the way we invest in the development of workers of all types, likewise we should invest in the development and the upgrading of our cleaners and show them the due respect."

About 33,000 cleaners from licensed businesses have also received training, higher than the 50 per cent requirement for the first year under the new licensing regime, the NEA said. To renew their licences in the subsequent year, companies are required to ensure that all of their cleaners are trained.

The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) has set aside an additional S$8.9 million over the next two years to keep training costs affordable for cleaning companies, the NEA said. Companies also have the option of flexible and accessible on-site and bite-sized training offered by WDA’s appointed training partners, to help them overcome their operational constraints in sending their employees for training, it added.

Mr Lim said there are plans to develop a human resource system that can track the workers' progress, to help the smaller firms.

He said: "In order to make their job easier and more effective, we are now in the process of talking to the IT industry to come up with an IT platform to help the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to manage their human resources better. So, with this system in place, they will be able to monitor the progress of each individual worker in terms of skills, wages, productivity and job progression."

He added that the labour movement will be looking at improving practices in other industries where labour is heavily outsourced. This includes the security and landscaping industries.


Meanwhile, more cleaners are now drawing a bigger salary as the mandatory licensing scheme for cleaning companies kicked in on Monday. The scheme requires these companies to pay Singaporean and Permanent Resident workers a minimum monthly salary of S$1,000.

As a cleaner, Mr Anuar Abdul Rahman used to earn a monthly salary of S$950. After learning to operate machines such as an auto-floor scrubber, his wages were raised by 40 per cent. Now known as a "floater", he takes home S$1,400.

Mr Anuar said: "I am looking forward to better courses for me to upgrade myself. For example, from a floater to a machine handler to a foreman or a supervisor ... if there is a chance for me."

No comments:

Post a Comment