Outsourced workers to get better rest areas with new advisory by tripartite partners

Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad (centre) interacting with the cleaners from ISS who work at Ikea Alexandra on Dec 9, 2019, as NTUC assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari (right), ISS assistant GM Simon David (standing) and Ikea HR manager Janet Lee (standing) look on. ST PHOTO: KELLY HUI
Recommendations in the advisory include providing outsourced workers with facilities to safekeep their belongings, access to drinking water and ensuring adequate ventilation at the rest areas. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF MANPOWER

SINGAPORE - Outsourced workers such as cleaners, security officers and landscape maintenance workers should have rest areas with proper ventilation and access to drinking water.

These recommendations were set out by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) in a jointly developed tripartite advisory on the provision of rest areas for outsourced workers on Monday (Dec 9).

The advisory was launched by Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad at a company visit to Ikea Alexandra.

It sets out good practices for service buyers and service providers to ensure that outsourced workers have access to proper and reasonable rest areas.

It is part of the Workcare initiative that was launched by Mr Zaqy in April to improve the work environment for low-wage workers and promote appreciation for them.

Recommendations in the advisory include providing outsourced workers with facilities to safekeep their belongings and access to drinking water, and ensuring adequate ventilation at the rest areas.

More than 600 stakeholders, including property owners, service buyers and providers, and low-wage outsourced workers, were consulted over the recommendations.

MOM has also visited more than 200 work premises of outsourced workers, such as food courts and shopping malls, since April.

Mr Zaqy noted that 70 per cent of these work premises had rest areas for their outsourced workers, but some of the areas were not up to mark in terms of the quality.

MOM said that through these visits, it has found that there is a need to set expectations on what is a proper and reasonable rest area.

It noted in a press statement: "These rest areas were in varying conditions. While some were adequate, others were unconducive."

Some of the rest areas visited had poor ventilation, were unhygienic or lacked shelter.

MOM added that service providers have to proactively engage service buyers on the issue, while service buyers have to be responsible in providing the rest areas.

Those who are unable to provide rest areas can extend the access of existing rest areas to outsourced workers as well, where they can safekeep belongings and get access to drinking water.

Mr Zaqy said: "The Tripartite Advisory is a first step in encouraging companies to provide proper and reasonable rest areas for our low-wage outsourced workers.

"We urge companies to adopt these recommendations, so that collectively we can uplift the working conditions of our low-wage workers."

Mr Zainal Sapari, assistant secretary-general of NTUC, noted that the challenge lies with older commercial buildings or properties such as condominiums that might have difficulty in finding rest areas for workers.

He added: "They should not be resting in makeshift or unconducive areas.

"When building owners and service buyers take the welfare of their outsourced workers to heart, they benefit from a happier and more productive workforce."

Ikea Alexandra has included a rest area for outsourced workers at the carpark since the store was opened in 1995.

The rest area was further expanded in 2008 and now spans 35 sq m, with air-conditioning, lockers, fridges, a microwave and furniture such as a couch, a table and chairs.

The outsourced workers also have access to a co-worker pantry with subsidised meals at $2 and free tea and coffee.

Around 40 of the 55 outsourced workers use the rest area regularly.

One of them is Mr Lim See Beng, 66, a cleaner who has worked there for two years.

He said: "I take my food to that rest area and I chat with friends. It is important as a place for me to rest.

"I hope that coffee and tea can be provided in the rest area in the future."

Cleaning service provider ISS, which has about 1,700 clients, works with companies such as Ikea in providing proper rest areas for its workers. It has about 10,000 employees in Singapore, of which around 8,000 are cleaning crew.

ISS assistant general manager Simon David said: "In general there is room for improvement.

"Some rest areas can have better ventilation, furniture and proper lighting.

"We will be working with our service buyers to do this in full force next year."

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