Can You Help, Please?

In an alternate universe, I could easily be working as an employee in a tuition centre like “Learning Champs”, drawing a salary and receiving employee benefits.

And imagine if such a scenario played out on me:

Learning Champs is running into financial difficulties and Mind Lab is taking over the tuition centre I have worked at for the past three years.

Mind Lab: Hi 15HWW, since you will be starting out with us as a new tutor, here is the financial package you will be receiving in 2017.

15HWW: Why is my salary being reduced to that of a fresh graduate when I have been working in this same tuition centre for three years? Doesn’t my experience count?

Mind Lab: We are sorry to hear this but since 2017 is the first year you will be joining us, this is how we peg your pay.

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Thankfully, in reality, the probability of such a scenario is rather remote in the industry I am currently in.

But our cleaners are not so lucky.

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According to Labour MP Zainal Sapari, many cleaners have worked at the same place for many years, but every time they are hired by a new employer, their salaries are being reduced and annual leave reset back to seven days. As such, most of our cleaners have low salaries and poor benefits.

Somewhere along the model above, something has gone terribly wrong.

Are cleaning service providers pocketing huge profits on the work of our cleaners? Or are premise owners underpaying service providers and indirectly underpaying our cleaners through cheap sourcing?

The answer appears to be the latter and in 2012, the Labour Movement, with the Government’s support, intervened to ensure a better livelihood for our cleaners.

Besides ensuring that a minimum basic wage of $1,000 was paid to cleaners, the recommendations also ensured that improvements in standards and productivity translate into wage increases for cleaners as they move up the skill ladder.

As a result, median basic and gross wages of our cleaners grew by 9% and 12% per annum respectively from 2012-2015. This meant that over a period of three years, the median gross wages of cleaners rose by 40%!

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However, the “reset” effect as explained above means that some cleaners are still very much shortchanged. In fact, Labour MP Zainal had mentioned the need to do more for the low wage workers, particularly in the areas such as annual increment and annual bonuses and annual leave. He had even suggested that the cleaning, security and landscaping industries take a leaf out of the transport industry and do something to better the lives of our low wage workers – the cleaners.

Therefore, NTUC, specifically the Tripartite Cluster For Cleaners has not rested on its laurels and recently, put forward a series of recommendations that should see the basic pay of cleaners go up by another $200 over the next three years.

Besides a higher pay, our cleaners would also receive an Annual Bonus equivalent of at least 2 weeks of their basic monthly wages.

Hopefully, with a better remuneration for the effort they put in to maintain our clean environment, there would be less turnover and motivated cleaners will be encouraged to stay in the industry.

And if the above translates to higher costs for premise owners, I hope most of us as consumers would not mind paying more if the cost is passed down.

As I have always reiterated, I definitely would not mind paying $0.50 for most of my hawker dishes if most of the price increase is channelled to the pay of our overworked cleaners at hawker centres.

I am trying to help them.

Can you also help them by sharing this article, please?

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    9 thoughts on “Can You Help, Please?

    1. Fred


      I’m not sure you are ignorant or not. You know how to praise NTUC for the ‘good job’ done to elevate our cleaners!

      Let me give you a little history. Due to poor Govt policy of being lean, the Govt nationwide adopted the ‘outsourcing policy’ to cut cost. Amongst the many jobs outsourced, cleaners is one of them.

      Tell me which companies, office or any industry has no need for cleaners? So all companies ‘outsource this cleaners job’ to contractors. Being part of the contracting job, contractors need to bid for the job. In order to win a tender, contractors need to lower the bid, therefore the cleaners salary will be lowered.

      Take a MOE school. The schools need cleaners? Of course! The same cleaners can be there for ten years doing the same thing for ten years, but his salary will be lowered each time a different contractor successfully bidded the contract.

      Cleaners should be part of the same organisation they work in and not be outsourced. If the cleaners are part of the staff, each year they will enjoy their increment and after ten years of the same job, I’m sure their salaries will not be docked.

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Fred,

        I agree with you.

        I think in the search of efficiency and letting the “market” run its course, some form of market failure has occurred and that’s why the Labour Movement and Government has decided to step in in recent years.

        I have a feeling more will be done soon and the public sector will likely be leading the way.

    2. Mao

      Suggestion: Please refrain from starting a couple of irrelevant paragraphs about Learning Champs or Mind Lab before your actual topic about cleaner’s salary. If you want to bring light to the plight faced by the lowly paid cleaners, then got to do it wholeheartedly. Regular readers are well aware that you give tuition, no need to keep repeating it. Cheers.

      1. My 15 HWW Post author

        Hi Mao,

        Thanks for your suggestion and I do appreciate it.

        Actually, there was little to no intention of trying to promote myself in this post. I am sorry it came across that way to you.

        It’s just my “style” to include a few para to personalise the post and introduce a bit of a context for regular readers.

        1. Gou

          Opinion: Mr 15 HWW, I’m a regular reader and I think having a post’s intro via something you can relate to is perfectly reasonable. Of course, I don’t think my opinion should speak for other regular readers, but neither should be the “suggestion” above (as implied). Appreciate your style! 🙂

          1. My 15 HWW Post author

            Hi Gou,

            Thanks for your kind words. Really appreciate it and glad you have enjoyed my writing thus far!

      2. Frugal Daddy

        Hi Mao

        I don’t see there is anything wrong with relating oneself to the subject matter to write in a more empathy manner.

        Maybe it will be sensitive to affected parties but i think 15hrww intention is kind. I choose to look at the intent of the post 🙂

        Indeed, it may be better to be direct to the point, but every writer has their style and plain vanilla will be boring if it is the only choice. Right?