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Netizens question the deployment of new monitoring system of cleaners at Tampines Town Council

Following complaints from Tampines residents regarding the cleanliness of their estate, the Tampines Town Council has introduced a new tracking system that will monitor a cleaner's movements throughout the HDB blocks, as precisely as the floors they have covered in a day's worth of work.

The system, which was rolled out in August and officially launched last Sunday (2 Dec) at an event to celebrate the estate's cleaners, utilises vertical positioning technology. The technology ensures a more effective way of monitoring whether the estate's cleaners have completed their cleaning work as assigned.

The process begins when the cleaning company downloads the system's mobile application into either the cleaner's personal mobile phone or a phone provided by the company itself.

The cleaners will then be required to sign in to the app upon reporting for work, and the app will begin to track their locations every minute.

An assortment of Wi-Fi access points throughout the block being cleaned will be detected and accessed by the system to pinpoint the exact floor the cleaner is on, as well as the time they are on that particular floor, via vertical positioning technology. The data tracked and collected by the app will generate a report of attendance.

Supervisors may conduct checks via the system's dashboard. 

Cleaners may be required to take photos of the corridors before and after cleaning them via a separate mobile app some time in the near future.

Tampines Town Council chairperson and Member of Parliament for the Tampines Group Representation Constituency Cheng Li Hui said regarding the monitoring system: “By looking at the system, we know that the cleaners were at the corridor, at their block.”

Ms Cheng added: “We are piloting it (in Tampines) first, and if it runs well, we’ll recommend it to the other town councils.”

Currently, the system is being implemented in four of five divisions in Tampines, except in Tampines North, and encompasses 520 to 530 blocks. The system will be introduced in Tampines North after the expiry of the current cleaning contract, and the subsequent release of the tender for cleaning in the area.

The new system also enables the appropriate assignment of tasks to cleaners according to their level of health, that is, it will make accommodations for cleaners with certain health issues to instead clean areas that are less challenging for them to reach. For example, cleaners who find it difficult to climb staircases due to arthritis could instead be tasked to clean the void deck and carpark on the ground floor.

Cleaners fear that the system will be used as a means to "control" them; Ms Cheng reassures that the system instead protects cleaners from residents' complaints

While a number of cleaners are happy about the implementation of the system, as it enables them to track their own cleaning progress, several cleaners, in speaking to TODAY Online, have expressed their apprehension regarding the monitoring system, saying that the system could become a way for their cleaning company to "control" cleaners' movements at work.

However, when asked by TODAY Online regarding the matter, Ms Cheng assured that “rather than" having residents "say that ‘I did not see you’ and "being angry about it sometimes”, the system will instead protect cleaners from such complaints and accusations, as tangible, accurate data will be collected and recorded through the app.

“If they carry out their job and this is… their duty in terms of their job scope, then they shouldn’t be worried about it,” she added.

Netizens appear to be divided on the implementation of the system

Netizens who claims to be residents at Tampines share different views on the matter.

Jason BC noted that there has been an improvement in the cleanliness of the corridors after the tracking system was put in place:

Sam Junior, however, appears to be skeptical of the effectiveness of the tracking system, and will continue to help "monitor" the system to observe if there will be any tangible progress:

Other netizens seem to prefer the traditional method of physical inspection by supervisors, as they believe that the crux of the problem lies in the lack of effective supervision, not on the cleaners' negligence per se:

Several netizens also pointed out the physically demanding nature of cleaning work, and have reminded others to bear that nature in mind before putting undue pressure on the cleaners, both through their complaints to the town council and through surveillance via the tracking system:

Some also jokingly proposed that Members of Parliament should be given a tracker to monitor their attendance at the Parliament sessions.