Budget debate: NMP calls for measures to ensure proper working conditions for cleaners, security officers

NMP Raj Joshua Thomas highlighted four areas where working conditions can be improved.
NMP Raj Joshua Thomas highlighted four areas where working conditions can be improved.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Laws requiring building owners to provide proper rest areas for outsourced workers should be implemented sooner, said a Nominated MP on Thursday (Feb 25).

This was one of several measures that Mr Raj Joshua Thomas suggested to ensure proper working conditions for cleaners, security officers and landscape maintenance workers.

Doing so will force service buyers to do their part to address "longstanding issues" that have plagued these outsourced industries, said Mr Thomas, who is president of the Security Association Singapore and director of a security company.

Speaking during the second day of the Budget debate, he highlighted four areas where working conditions can be improved and are within the control of service buyers.

First, there should be proper work areas such as adequately ventilated guard rooms.

"Workers should not be expected to work for extended periods of time in the sun, for example, or at places that are inherently dangerous without safeguards, like locations at height," said Mr Thomas.

Provisions for proper work areas can be made at the design stage of new buildings, he suggested.

Second, laws requiring building owners to provide proper rest areas for outsourced workers should be implemented sooner, he said.

Currently, building owners are only encouraged to provide proper rest areas in their premises through a tripartite advisory released in 2019.

Last year, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said a new Workcare grant would be launched to support building owners and employers to provide rest areas for outsourced workers, with the aim to eventually make this a legal requirement.

On Thursday, Mr Thomas asked for an update on the status of the grant, and urged the requirement to be legislated sooner.

Third, outsourced workers should be granted proper rest times and their working hours should be regulated through the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), said the NMP.

He noted that it is the norm for security officers to work 12-hour shifts, leaving them with little personal time and making it difficult for them to focus on the job.

Instead, eight- to 10-hour shifts would be more reasonable, he said.

While this will lead to higher costs for buyers, "they must be prepared to pay for it, and our workers should not suffer to save their costs", said Mr Thomas.

He called on the tripartite partners to regulate the working hours of security officers at eight- to 10-hour shifts, and to make this a part of the PWM for the security sector so that their wages would not suffer as a result.

Lastly, service buyers should also ensure that outsourced workers do only tasks that they were trained and deployed for, said Mr Thomas.

"Often, buyers treat outsourced workers as general workers or odd-job labourers and call on them to carry out tasks that do not fall under their scope of work, for example, cleaners being asked to perform electrical works," he added.

He noted that in 2015, a security officer died from his injuries after he fell into a lift shaft while trying to prise the lift doors open.

To guide service buyers on how to ensure proper working conditions for outsourced workers, Mr Thomas suggested that a tripartite advisory be consolidated and issued.