SINGAPORE: A total of 1,001 cleaning businesses, with a total workforce of 52,000 cleaners, have been licensed since the new cleaning business licensing regime was introduced in April, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Monday (Sep 1).
The Environmental Public Health Amendment Bill came into force in April, which required all general cleaning businesses in Singapore to be licensed by September as part of efforts to raise the productivity and working conditions of the cleaning sector.
According to the NEA, all cleaning businesses that have applied so far have successfully obtained their licences.
NEA’s director-general for the Environmental Public Health Division, Mr Derek Ho, said: "We are pleased that more than 1,000 cleaning businesses have come onboard and are supportive of the cleaning licensing regime. We believe this will translate to better performing workers and more satisfied service buyers through enhanced service quality and higher standards."
TRAINING, PROGRESSIVE WAGES FOR CLEANERS
Starting Monday, licensed companies will have to pay resident cleaners - deployed under new cleaning contracts entered into on or after Apr 1, 2014 - wages based on the Progressive Wage Model. More than 26,000 resident cleaners are currently being paid wages under the model, the NEA said. By Sep 1 next year, companies will have to pay progressive wages to all resident cleaners, including those under existing contracts.
According to labour chief Lim Swee Say, cleaning companies can no longer depress wages in a bid to win contracts. Instead, the licensing scheme will push companies to focus more on improving productivity.
Mr Lim said: "So in other words, if I can compete for this contract by making better use of labour-saving devices, with better trained workers, I will be able to do the same job but more efficiently, with less or fewer manpower, but more importantly, with higher productivity."
He added that the scheme will also lift the image of cleaners. "We hope that we will look at the cleaners more as a human resource, more as a precious manpower, rather than cheap labour. So, in other words, just like the way we invest in the development of workers of all types, likewise we should invest in the development and the upgrading of our cleaners and show them the due respect."
About 33,000 cleaners from licensed businesses have also received training, higher than the 50 per cent requirement for the first year under the new licensing regime, the NEA said. To renew their licences in the subsequent year, companies are required to ensure that all of their cleaners are trained.
The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) has set aside an additional S$8.9 million over the next two years to keep training costs affordable for cleaning companies, the NEA said. Companies also have the option of flexible and accessible on-site and bite-sized training offered by WDA’s appointed training partners, to help them overcome their operational constraints in sending their employees for training, it added.
Mr Lim said there are plans to develop a human resource system that can track the workers' progress, to help the smaller firms.
He said: "In order to make their job easier and more effective, we are now in the process of talking to the IT industry to come up with an IT platform to help the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to manage their human resources better. So, with this system in place, they will be able to monitor the progress of each individual worker in terms of skills, wages, productivity and job progression."
He added that the labour movement will be looking at improving practices in other industries where labour is heavily outsourced. This includes the security and landscaping industries.
MORE CLEANERS DRAWING BIGGER SALARY
Meanwhile, more cleaners are now drawing a bigger salary as the mandatory licensing scheme for cleaning companies kicked in on Monday. The scheme requires these companies to pay Singaporean and Permanent Resident workers a minimum monthly salary of S$1,000.
As a cleaner, Mr Anuar Abdul Rahman used to earn a monthly salary of S$950. After learning to operate machines such as an auto-floor scrubber, his wages were raised by 40 per cent. Now known as a "floater", he takes home S$1,400.
Mr Anuar said: "I am looking forward to better courses for me to upgrade myself. For example, from a floater to a machine handler to a foreman or a supervisor ... if there is a chance for me." - CNA/cy/by
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