I refer to the article “Retiree gets 2nd wind as cleaning team leader” (Sunday Times, Apr 30).

It states that “estimates overall productivity levels have increased 20 per cent. For cleaners younger than 60, it’s about 30 per cent

… who has been in the sector for 15 years, says cleaners’ salaries used to start from $600, and that did not change for more than 10 years.

But now, for those who clean offices or schools, for instance, a general cleaner’s salary starts from $1,000 and can go up to at least $1,600 for a supervisor.

Mr Ang notes that without the progressive wage model, salaries would not improve.”

Wages fell from $1,277 to $1,200 in 15 years?

In this connection, according to the article “Mindset change needed to help low-wage workers” (Straits Times, Feb 7, 2012), in 2000 – the median gross wage for cleaners and labourers was $1,277.

Real wage fell 30% in 15 years?

After accounting for inflation for the last 15 years or so, I estimate that in year 2000 dollars (June 2000 CPI 74.371), the $1,200 median gross pay now of cleaners is equivalent to only about $896 in 2000 dollars. So, what this may mean is that the real pay of cleaners has declined by about 30 per cent in the last 15 years (June 2015 CPI 99.67) or so.

A decent pay for cleaners?

Since median gross wages grew by 12 per cent from 2012 to 2015, and were $1,200 in June 2015 – the take-home pay of cleaners after the maximum 20 per cent employee CPF contribution may only be about $960.

According to the article “Over 40,000 cleaners will see basic pay go up by $200 over next three years” (Straits Times, Dec 12, 2016) –

Some cleaners have to wait until July 2017?

“Cleaning businesses with new service contracts that take effect from July 1 next year must adopt the new recommendations for 2017.

Some cleaners have to wait until July 2018?

Meanwhile, those with existing service contracts that take effect before then will have until July 1, 2018 to pay their cleaners wages according to the recommendations.

Its first recommendation is a total increase of $200 to basic wages under the model by 2019. This should start with a $60 annual increase in 2017 and 2018, followed by a $80 raise in 2019.”

5.6% real increase in 3 years?

As to “Cleaners have seen their wages rise since 2012, when the model was first mooted. Median basic wages of full-time cleaners here grew by 9 per cent from 2012 to last year. It was $1,100 in June 2015. Median gross wages grew by 12 per cent from 2012 to last year, and were $1,200 in June 2015” – this works out to a full-time cleaners’ median basic wages’ real increase (after inflation) of only about 5.6 per cent in the three years, from June 2012 (CPI 96.407) to June 2015 (99.67).

65 cents a day real increase?

This means that the real increase per year was only about 1.9 per cent, or about $19 a month – about 65 cents a day.

Can you imagine getting an increment in pay of just 65 cents a day per year for three years?

Talking about $1,000 pay since 2008?

In this connection, we have been talking about paying cleaners $1,000 since 2008 – “Full-time cleaners now earn about $1,000 a month on average, compared to about $750 before the (Town Councils’ cleaners’) scheme was launched in 2008” (“Cleaners’ pay up $250 to $1,000: Congratulations?“).

So many schemes in the last 8 years?

In the last eight years or so, we have had so many schemes and initiatives to raise cleaners’ pay to $1,000 (see below).

– ““Progressive wage concept initiative to raise the wages of cleaners” (“Measure wage targets in hourly pay, not gross total“, Jun 20, 2012)

“Unprecedented move by a group of officials from unions, cleaning companies and the Government would raise the pay of cleaners by 23 per cent” (Oct 19, 2012)

“Contracts would only be awarded to cleaning companies awarded the Clean Mark Accreditation” (“Parliament: Replies that never answer the question?“, Nov 14, 2012)

“The National Trades Union Congress ( NTUC) has set a target to raise 10,000 cleaners’ monthly salary to at least $1,000 by 2015″ (“NTUC: Wages need to account for standard of living?“, Dec 20, 2012)”

All cleaners have to wait until 2020?

With regard to “those employed by the same business for at least 12 months will get an annual bonus, equivalent to two weeks of basic monthly pay, from 2020” – why do cleaners have to wait for another three years, in order to get an annual bonus of two weeks “from 2020”?

Hardly any real increase from 2020 to 2022?

In respect of “The TCC (Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners) also recommended a 3 per cent annual increase to wages from 2020 to 2022” – since I understand that historical inflation in Singapore is about 2.5 per cent – does it mean that cleaners may be getting hardly any real increase from 2020 to 2022?

Giving cleaners a reason to celebrate – for 6 years

According to the article “Giving cleaners a reason to celebrate – for six years” (Straits Times, Dec 13, 2016) –

Did not reach target after 3 years – short by $200?

it would appear that the target set in 2012 – “those cleaning offices will get at least $1,000 a month in basic pay and those cleaning hawker centres will get $1,200 a month” – has not been reached after the three years from 2012 to 2015.

The $1,200 target for hawker centre cleaners is short by $200 ($1,200 – $1,000).

Alas, finally a new law?

“A new law that kicked in from September 2015 also made it compulsory for cleaning companies to implement the minimum wages.

Influx of foreign workers doing low-wage jobs depressed wages?

For 10 long years, between 2001 and 2010, the wages of cleaners had been depressed. This was the decade which saw an influx of foreign workers doing low-wage jobs, which, in turn, depressed wages, and cleaners were particularly vulnerable as they were mostly older, less-educated workers who did not have many other job options.

While income figures for cleaners were not officially released, it is clear they earned well below the lowest quintile of workers.”

20% of workers – $3.60 pay increase per year for 10 years!

As to “During that period, the nominal monthly income of the lowest quintile rose from $1,200 to $1,400. This increase worked out to real growth of only 0.3 per cent, almost flat, after adjusting for inflation” – it works out to only an increase of about $3.60 per year ($1,200 x 0.3%) for the 10 years.

How do you feel – now that you know that the bottom 20 per cent of Singaporean workers had a miserable real increase in income of only $3.60 a year for 10 years?

“The wage-hike plan can prevent a repeat of this wage depression.”

Problem with the “median”?

The problem with the subject and all the previous schemes to help raise cleaners’ pay may be that the median is the half-way point of the population of cleaners.

And it only refers to full-time employed cleaners.

What about part-time cleaners?

There are many part-time cleaners who earn as little as $250 a month, as highlighted by the part-time cleaner who had her holiday trip to Japan cancelled last year, because of the closure of the travel agency – who only earned about $250 a month.

Simple solution – minimum hourly wage?

Perhaps a possible simple solution – is to have a minimum basic wage of say $7 an hour, and for future target wage increase to be based on the hourly wage too, instead of on the median basic and gross monthly wage of different types (hawker, office, etc) of cleaners.

A $7 hourly wage would raise their basic monthly wage immediately to at least $1,335 ($7 x 44 hours x 4 weeks & 2 days) a month.

Wait until 2022 to get $1,312?

In this regard – the above suggestion of $1,335 is even more than the “$1,200 in 2019 and $1,312 in 2022 … in the committee’s plan”.

2012 target: $1,200 by 2015, now same $1,200 target by 2019?

By the way – since the target in 2012 for hawker centre cleaners was to achieve $1,200 by 2015 – why are we still talking about a new target now to achieve the same $1,200 in 2019?

1st world country – 3rd world labour policies?

Why are we a so called first-world country that arguably, still continues to have third-world labour policies!

And when will lower-income Singaporeans get a decent pay – instead of a Labour Day news report about how great the progressive wage model has been in helping lower-income workers?

Leong Sze Hian

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