Workplace safety training for all cleaners; better pay for cleaning restrooms

Sun City Maintenance cleaner Lily Goh, 75, has attended many courses, including workplace safety and the use of cleaning robots (above). ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Sun City Maintenance cleaner Lily Goh, 75, has attended many courses, including workplace safety and the use of cleaning robots (above). ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

All resident cleaners will need to be trained in workplace safety and health from 2022 to reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls among a workforce that tends to be older.

Their employers should also send them for one of the core Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) modules identified by the Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners (TCC) for their job level.

And the minimum pay for cleaners who look after restrooms must be higher than that of general indoor cleaners from July 1, 2021.

They must receive basic monthly wages of at least $1,486, up from $1,274 for general indoor cleaners, in recognition of the hardships they experience, said the TCC yesterday.

These updates to the progressive wage model for cleaners are among new recommendations made by the group, which comprises representatives from the labour movement, employers, service buyers and the Government. It consulted tripartite partners, including training providers, for around a year. The recommendations were accepted by the Government yesterday.

"These enhancements will ensure that the cleaning workforce continues to stay relevant, and is well-equipped and ready for business transformation," said the National Environment Agency, SkillsFuture Singapore, Workforce Singapore and the Manpower Ministry in a joint statement.

The progressive wage model, which is a ladder that sets out minimum pay and training requirements for workers at different skill levels, has been a compulsory condition for cleaning companies to be licensed since 2014.

TCC chairman Zainal Sapari, an assistant secretary-general at the National Trades Union Congress, said at a media briefing: "Since we are increasing the base pay levels, we need a strong justification to service buyers to pay more by showing workers are being upskilled."

There are about 39,000 residents who comprise about 68 per cent of the total cleaning workforce. Their average age is 60.

Cleaners must already take at least one WSQ module. The TCC felt that safety and health should be a priority because the age profile of cleaners tends to be older and as cleaning can involve risks such as wet floors and working at heights.

 
 

The cluster also said "restroom cleaners" should be made a separate job role under the progressive wage model. Their salaries will be pegged to those of healthcare cleaners in hospitals or general cleaners in town councils, for example.

TCC member Tony Chooi, who is president of the Environmental Management Association of Singapore, said about 20 per cent to 25 per cent of cleaners here are rest-room cleaners.

The TCC also called on service buyers - such as developers who outsource cleaning of their properties - to adopt contracts based on outcomes rather than worker headcount and to allow cleaning companies to send workers for training during working hours.

City Developments group general manager Chia Ngiang Hong, who is also on the TCC, said that as a service buyer, "we want efficient and safety-conscious workers because we don't want any accidents".

"If the service provider can assure us that workers are trained, we are prepared to consider paying a bit more," he added.

Sun City Maintenance cleaner Lily Goh, 75, who earns about $1,500 a month, said she has attended courses on topics such as workplace safety and health, and using cleaning robots.

She said she enjoys her work as it keeps her healthy. "And I want to attend other courses to learn more."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2019, with the headline 'Workplace safety training for all cleaners; better pay for cleaning restrooms'. Print Edition | Subscribe