Singapore is set to see new legislation that will affect wages in the cleaning sector. This follows the wage payment model known as the “Progressive Wage Model”. An employer in the cleaning industry had to pay a recommended base salary (prescribed at $1000) and integrate a salary/skills progression ladder for the employee.
If said employer does not pay this base and ladder, he will not receive the licence required to conduct his business. The security and landscaping industries may soon see the implementation of similar legislation.
The Department of Statistics reveal 100,000 individuals earning below $1000. Implementation of the Progressive Wage Model will mean an instant decrease of this number. Together with WorkFare, low waged families are assured of better livelihoods.
I have read and heard anecdotes of how some employers are “struggling” with these new programs. For years, these companies have made good profit earned from the sweat and hunched backs of labour. Do you think society should feel sorry for the bosses of cleaning companies? If employers don’t value each and every one of their workers, should we feel sorry for their bottom line?
Cleaning had been a lucrative business with low barriers of entry. In 2012 alone, there were some 2000 cleaning companies listed on ACRA. In the past, intense competition and price wars in the industry may have caused a depression of cleaner’s wages. In the eyes of cold economics, labour is nothing more than a commodity – a piece to buy and sell.
The people in the business of outsourcing now find it very difficult as they have larger payrolls to manage. Some even have themselves locked in long term contracts with no means to negotiate prices with customers. It may eventually become unprofitable to run a cleaning business.
If businesses hired cleaners directly and didn’t conveniently outsourced these jobs, perhaps the employment situation would have been rosier.
Until the late 90s, many companies and even the Government had cleaners on their payrolls. The pay was better, the benefits better and cleaners weren’t at the mercy of corporate price wars. When outsourcing became a trend, cleaners were then subject to uncompassionate market forces.
As a country fast maturing, businesses should mature in responsibility too. We should not leave vulnerable low-waged workers exposed to the harsh realities of demand and supply. Starting with Government and MNCs, we should take the reign on employment of low waged workers directly, hiring them back into their fold.
Direct hiring may not be possible for many companies in the short-term, and they will continue to outsource. Either way, it will cost more. Of course it will cost more, and I understand if there is resistance against paying more and that is why policies must nudge employers in the right direction.
And until employers willingly pay more, we will need wage legislation and the Progressive Wage Model to help lift salaries today for the bottom strata of society.
Businesses will find the message very clear: you can outsource your work, but you cannot outsource your social responsibility.