You hear fewer stories of schools practicing cheap sourcing these days. Cheap sourcing happens when schools source for the cheapest bid by a service provider. This directly leads to a wage depression of employees who are typically low-wage workers. The employee is the product, and business owners want to keep their products priced as low as possible. This does not bode well for cleaners, especially when you see that the work they do is labour-intensive.
Yes, there is the Progressive Wage Model in place for low wage workers to uplift their lives. Yes, the PWM has a price floor and operates to sustainably keep the worker’s salary up. But amidst all this, I think more can be done.
Even with the PWM, service providers may still pay their workers the bare minimum required and delay increase of salary. They can even cut back on entitlements and other necessary welfare.
Personally I think the MOE should start to hire its own cleaners and security officers directly. Outsourcing indirectly depresses the wages of low wage workers and does no good to them.
In addition, outsourcing also means that the workers working with the service provider may lose their job should the contract between the school and service provider be lost or terminated.
Conversely, direct hiring means that the schools can provide job stability for the cleaners.
With direct hiring, MOE can also take on the duty of providing these workers with employment benefits which may be similar to its other employees. This surely allows the employees to feel good about themselves.
Direct hiring also allows the workers to undergo skills development and training in order to improve their productivity which will lead to higher wages.
If MOE or other companies continue to outsource such work because it is cheaper to do so, then our low wage workers will always remain low wage.
If you’ve never thought about how outsourcing can affect the livelihood of our dedicated cleaners, perhaps now is the time.