Is Singapore Clean OR Cleaned?

Cleaners are often taken for granted and I guess we won’t really appreciate them till we are able to see what happens when there are no cleaners around.

Here’s a picture my pal, Clarence, posted on facebook. It shows the mess at a hawker centre in Chinatown at night:

Dirtied tables at hawker centre

As you can imagine, cleaners will have to clean up this mess in the morning. And by the time you head over for your breakfast, you will have no idea that such a mess had occurred just the previous evening!

And here’s a question: If the first thing YOU see when you reach your ‘office’ is THIS mess, and your job is to clean it up, what sort of thoughts will run through your mind? To make matters worse, your monthly pay is an average of $1000.

Singapore’s cleaners really do not have an easy time. They have to help uphold Singapore’s reputation as a clean and green city, but have to combat the messes that Singaporeans and other residents make.

One Friday, I attended Ngee Ann Poly’s Cleaners’ Appreciation Event on their Low Wage Workers’ Day 2014. Organized by the polytechnic’s Current Affairs Club in collaboration with Young NTUC, the lunch was enjoyed by about 70 of the cleaners who serve in the school.

Students got the opportunity to show their gratitude by serving these low wage workers and forging closer ties with them through the chit-chat over lunch. The cleaners were also given goodie bags containing t-shirts and other items.

Students serving the cleaning staff:

Serving the cleaning staff

A student cleaning up after the cleaners, to the latter’s amazement:

Cleaning up

MP for Nee Soon GRC, Mr Patrick Tay, commented in his opening address that “Singapore is more of a cleaned city, than a clean city.”

MP Patrick Tay speaking with the cleaning staff:

patrick tay

He also spoke about the Progressive Wage Model and the government’s serious commitment in helping workers in the cleaning industry upgrade their skills, improve productivity, and make their jobs safer to do. Ultimately, wages are supposed to go up, and soon, there will be a minimum basic salary of S$1000 for cleaning staff, under a new Public Health Act law in which cleaning companies must submit a progressive wage plan in order to obtain their business licence.

Thereafter, cleaners can expect wages to increase upwards according to their skills, productivity and career responsibilities.

Progressive Wage Model for Cleaners

progressive wage model

On top of that, the National Wages Council just recommended a minimum $60 increase for workers earning below $1000 each month, although unions wanted the monthly salary threshold to be higher so more workers could get the pay hike. $60 may not be a big deal to PMEs, but for someone working a back-breaking job for less than $1000 and knows how to stretch his or her dollar, $60 can go far in helping household expenses.

How can we help them?

Let’s start by showing our appreciation to the cleaners and by being better customers:

1) Say “thank you”, with a smile, when cleaners come by your table to clear the trays and dishes.

2) Keep your ‘mess’ contained within your bowl or plate. Do not leave chicken bones, prawn shells, tissue paper and the like, all over the table. Spare a thought for the cleaners who have to pick up after you, thus preventing quick turnover times so other patrons can take the seat after you.

3) Whenever possible, return your tray and utensils to the cleaning stations or tray receptacles.

If you know of a cleaner who has made a difference in your life by keeping your office, neighborhood, or favorite hangout cleaner and more conducive, how about helping him/her win $100 in Fairprice vouchers?

Take part in the Cleaners’ Selfie Competition on Facebook HERE.