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Employers urged to be fair

  • TODAY (25 October 2010) : Employers urged to be fair 
  • TODAY (19 October 2010) : Clean up treatment of cleaners
  • TODAY (21 October 2010) : Elderly and exploited 

Employers urged to be fair
- TODAY, 25 October 2010

     We thank Ms Jessie Chong and Mr Arthur Lim for sharing their experiences (19 and 21 October 2010).

2.   Employers should deal with their employees fairly and reasonably in all employment matters. If specific work arrangements are required due to the nature of the job, employers should communicate such arrangements to their employees clearly.

3.   The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) takes a serious view of employers who subject their employees to unreasonable employment conditions and arrangements. MOM conducts investigations of all complaints relating to employees’ well-being. The Ministry has requested TODAY to get in touch with the letter writers and we are waiting for their response. We advise both Ms Chong and Mr Lim to email us at or call the MOM hotline at 6438 5122 so that we can initiate investigations into the cases and take appropriate actions. Members of the public are also urged to provide information to the Ministry if they are aware of cases of unreasonable employment conditions.

4.   Cleaning is one of the sectors which the Ministry conducts proactive audits to check on and enforce employment terms and conditions. MOM also engages the industry associations, cleaners and their employers directly to educate them on their employment rights and obligations. To reach out to cleaners and their companies, MOM is collaborating with NTUC’s Unit for Contract and Casual Workers, CPFB, WDA and industry partners to organise regular forums, seminars and workshops. Beyond employment rights and obligations under the Employment Act, the workers are also informed about training opportunities, skills upgrading, Workfare benefits and other related matters.

5.   We hope that through these efforts, employees working in the cleaning industry can enjoy better working conditions and upgrade themselves to earn a higher income.

Clean up treatment of cleaners 
- TODAY, 19 October 2010

I am writing about the treatment that my dad encountered and I hope companies out there can review and improve the working conditions for cleaners.

My dad, a senior citizen, got a job two weeks ago as a cleaner at a school. He was supposed to start work at 8.30am and promised a salary of about $800. After two days, he was told to start at 7am to clean the toilets before the students and teachers arrived and his pay was reduced to $650.

Subsequently, he was told to report to work by 6am to sweep the car park.

The MRT service starts only at 5.28am and the earliest bus service is around then. There was no way he could arrive at work on time and the cost of taking a taxi - which we doubted his company would reimburse - would far exceed his salary.

My dad had no choice but to quit. Without losing heart, he found another position as a cleaner at a five-star hotel.

The job interviewers said they did not have any black work trousers in his size (large). So, he went out and bought two pairs - only to be told the trousers should actually be blue. He had to buy new ones, spending $200 in all before even starting work. And when he reported for work? He was told uniforms would be provided.

After a quick orientation, my dad was told to clean the BBQ area. As it was drizzling, he asked if he could do indoor cleaning first but was turned down. Without a raincoat or umbrella, he and another worker had to sweep the wet floor.

He later felt unwell and said he could not continue working.

Are these the sort of working conditions cleaners should endure?

Elderly and exploited
- TODAY, 21 October 2010

I read with sympathy the letter from Ms Jessie Chong about her father's experience upon landing a job as a cleaner ("Clean up treatment of cleaners", Oct 19).

I am not surprised such treatment exists and could be commonplace, especially for senior citizens employed in the cleaning industry.

I have met some elderly cleaners, working for a pittance, who told me that they are expected to remain standing throughout their work hours, even if their assigned areas are spotlessly clean.

I once asked one such cleaner: "The toilet is so well maintained and there is nothing more to clean. Why don't you just take a seat and rest for a while, and get up to clean the area when the need arises?"

His answer: "No, I can't because if the supervisor sees me I'll be fined $50." When asked, he told me he was paid about $800 a month.

Imagine, if he sat down 16 times in the course of a month, he wouldn't be paid a cent. What right does the cleaning company have to impose such a penalty?

Of course, everyone likes a clean toilet but expecting a cleaner to stand still like a robot is clearly thoughtless exploitation.

The authorities encourage the elderly to work into their golden years but more can be done to address such abuse.

There must be legislation in place to ensure employers do not have the right to arbitrarily impose financial penalties. If such penalties are imposed there should be a limit to the fine, based on the monthly salary.

Many employers get away with such rules because many of their workers do not know the legality of such practices, thereby opening the door to abuse.

The authorities should take the lead to ensure such abuse is not condoned and act on it rigorously when a complaint is made about a company.