Keep outsourced essential workers safe and pay them fair wages amid Covid-19, firms told

The absence of outsourced workers in certain industries has been keenly felt over the past months. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - During the circuit breaker period, cleaning company Anergy Building Services managed to keep elderly cleaners at home while ensuring their salaries would continue to be paid.

It also worked with the building manager to reduce its manpower deployment since most tenants of the office building were working from home.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Thursday (Aug 13) cited the case to illustrate the need for balance in looking after outsourced workers, who keep Singapore safe and clean, while ensuring that businesses remain sustainable.

He referred to such workers as essential staff who "have been at the front line in our fight against Covid-19".

In the past few months, the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress, the Singapore National Employers Federation and other agencies issued advisories to companies, setting out recommendations for appropriate Covid-19 safety measures and payment of fees for outsourced workers.

The organisations also called for a consultative approach and change in business policies so that practices can be sustainable.

Four advisories were issued to the cleaning, security, waste management and lift and escalator sectors respectively.

On Thursday, the final two advisories were issued for the landscape sector, and the strata management and facility management sectors.

The absence of outsourced workers in certain industries has been keenly felt over the past months, and especially during the circuit breaker period.

The Straits Times reported in May that the number of refuse collectors dropped by nearly a fifth even as more rubbish was being generated as people stayed at home.

Weeds and wildflowers also bloomed where previously they were regularly removed, with the National Parks Board cutting down on non-essential landscape works at the peak of Covid-19 in Singapore.

The advisories on Thursday called on companies to pay workers appropriately and for safety buyers to exercise restraint in activating penalty clauses.

Safe management measures should also be put in place amid Covid-19.

For instance, cleaning and disinfecting agents should be provided for workers in the landscape sector who work outdoors.

These workers should also have access to proper and reasonable rest areas in or near their work premises.

The tripartite advisory for the landscape sector added that service buyers should prioritise works that are essential to maintain public safety and health, such as tree inspections and pruning, now that there is a need to catch up on maintenance works.

Where workers have worked more than their normal scope of duties, additional payment should be considered, the advisories recommended.

Mr Zaqy, who is also Senior Minister of State for Defence, said most service buyers and providers have been following the practical recommendations which "protect the interests and livelihoods of our outsourced workers".

"In these difficult times, it will take each and every one of us to come together and play our part to ensure that we get through this together," he added.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.