The alternative news in 1 day? (part 21) – “Minimum wage” for cleaners


January 08

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “New licensing scheme for cleaning companies from September” (Straits Times, Jan 8).

Oh no – not another scheme to increase cleaners’ pay?

It states that “The Government will introduce a new law in Parliament this month where cleaning firms that do not comply with the minimum wages in the cleaning sector will be punished, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Wednesday.

$1,000 “minimum wage” by legislation?

Once passed and implemented, the new law will ensure that cleaners earn at least $1,000 a month, while supervisors can earn at least $1,600. Some 55,000 cleaners whose median basic monthly pay is $820 now stand to gain from the move.”

Not “minimum wage”?

After so many schemes like the progressive wage concept, cleaning firms’ accredition scheme for Government contracts, PAP town councils’ cleaners’ minimum $1,000 wage, etc – it would appear now that the Government has finally “thrown in the towel” – to effectively legislate a minimum wage, even though we still refuse to call it a minimum wage.

Security guards too only?

Mr Tharman also said to the newspaper that besides the cleaning sector, the Government will also implement a similar licensing scheme to the security sector.  And added that these moves are targeted approaches to use industry licensing schemes to raise wages in low wage sectors and not a national minimum wage.

But what about the other workers?

– Since the legislation will only apply to cleaners and security guards – what about the rest of the full-time resident workers who are not in these 2 occupations?  There are 114,000  ”below $1,000″ workers.

And what about part-time workers? The cleaners and security guards who work part-time?

At the end of the day,  we should not kid ourselves that piecemeal measures will solve the problem of so many workers earning so little.

If we include self-employed persons, I estimate that there may be as many as 600,000 residents earning below $1,500.

Labour MPs – the more the merrier?

And arguably, why are we in this pathetic state of affairs? – could it be due to some extent to our having so many labour MPs in Parliament?  (“Four PAP MPs to join NTUC’s top leadership” (Straits Times,  Jan 8)?

By the way,  are there any other countries in the world that have so many current and ex labour MPs in Parliament?

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.