Cleaners in Singapore will see their salaries increase each year over six years from 2023, after the proposals made by the Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners (TCC) on cleaning wage ladder were accepted by the Government earlier on Monday (7 June).
Starting from 2023 to 2028, the base wages for cleaners who are Singaporean and permanent residents will go up on a year-on-year basis.
Under the progressive wage model (PWM), the increase will be for cleaners across all job levels and it will rise up to between S$1,570 and S$2,210 in 2023. The amount will subsequently increase by at least S$170 annually until 2028.
For example, a full-time general or indoor cleaner will be entitled for a monthly wage of S$1,570 in July 2023. This means the worker gets a pay hike of S$258, which is nearly 20 percent increase from the recommended salary of S$1,312 in 2022.
On the other hand, the recommended annual increments for PWM from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2023 was 3 percent a year.
The basic salary of cleaners has gradually went up over the years, and now it stands at S$1,236. Under the PWM, it is expected to go up to S$1,274 in July this year and to S$1,312 in July 2022.
Based on this new wage adjustments, workers in different categories like restroom cleaners and healthcare cleaners will be paid at least S$1,795 yearly. Higher-skilled employees such as supervisors and mechanical drivers will be given at least S$2,210.
It is said that this new system will benefit about 40,000 resident cleaners hired by more than 1,500 cleaning businesses.
“This is a timely and necessary review to recognise the importance and higher value of work shouldered by our cleaners, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said TCC and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in a joint media statement on Monday.
The PWM is created to raise the wages of lower-wage workers by upgrading their skills and increasing their productivity, and it has been a licensing condition for cleaning companies since 2014.
According to NTUC, a survey conducted in 2020 found that almost all respondents pointed out that the job of cleaners has become more important, and 95 percent expressed that they should be paid higher.
This is also the first wage review that takes reference from the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers’ objective to ensure that wage growth is “ambitious enough to close the gap with workers earning median wages”.
“In this pandemic, most of our workers, or cleaners are out there on the frontline … we really need to show a commitment and our gratitude for what they’ve done, keeping Singapore safe,” said Member of Parliament Mohd Fahmi Aliman (PAP-Marine Parade).
He added, “I strongly urge all stakeholders to play a part in ensuring that our essential services workers in the environmental service industry can work with dignity.”
Training requirements to be added
On Monday, it was also announced that training guidelines for cleaners to get at least two Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) Certificates in Environmental Cleaning Modules or the equivalent have to be fulfilled by December 2022.
“This will help cleaners ensure their personal safety when carrying out cleaning tasks, especially with the increased cleaning demands and standards brought on by COVID-19,” said TCC and NTUC.
After 2025, the number of WSQ that general cleaners are required to complete will be increased to three. As for those in higher job roles, they must complete four modules.
Chairman of the TCC and NTUC assistant director-general Zainal Sapari noted that the proposed wage ladders was made after extensive discussion and consultations with industry stakeholders.
Besides justifying the value of the work cleaners do, the “aggressive wage increase” also tries and hopes to narrow the gap between their wages and the salaries of other workers, said Mr Zainal.
As for whether there’s a target percentage of the media salary that cleaners’ pay should eventually be pegged to, Mr Zainal asserted that it is “premature”, but noted that the goal is for the annual wage increase to be higher than the median annual increase so the salary gap can be narrowed.
To attract youngsters into the industry
Additionally, Mr Zainal also said that the wage increase is done to also attract the younger generation into the industry. “We want to attract a younger workforce into this industry. We want this to be a possible career that they can consider, compared to going into the gig economy,” he noted.
President of the Environment Management Association of Singapore Tony Chooi pointed out that he hopes the people of Singapore would not pick a job as a cleaner as their “last resort”.
“We are trying all ways to see how we are able to build the industry into something that is more attractive,” he said.
When asked if the higher salaries will cause cleaning companies to hire more foreigners instead, Mr Zainal said that this should not happen as the sector is regulated by the Dependency Ratio Ceiling which is basically a quota for hiring Singaporean workers, Channel News Asia (CNA) said.
Upon reading this news, netizens commented in the Facebook page of Channel News Asia (CNA) asking why is the wage increase not happening now, but only in 2023. They said that this salary increment is “long overdue” and it should be implemented now so cleaners don’t suffer more from the current “below sustainable income”.
Others slammed the authorities as they noted that the gradual salary hike is still lower than other developed nations like Japan. One user even noted that the wages of cleaners in European countries, the US and Taiwan are higher than white-collar managers.
Separately, a number of online users called for the Government to implement a “minimum wage” for all low-skilled jobs. They said this is so the workers are not cheated, be given basic benefits like medical subsidies and more.
A couple of them asserted that the PWM should also be applied to other industries as many employers have been underpaying their staff. One user noted that by increasing salaries of Singaporeans and permanent residents in other sectors, it will “(debunk) the myth typically coined that local can’t work tough jobs”.
Responding to the authorities point that they hope an increased salary for cleaners will attract the youngsters into the industry, netizens asked if politicians will allow their kids to be a cleaner in the first place.