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Bertha HarianBertha Harian


Use machine, make more money?

Over the past nine years or so, I don’t know how many times my condo has switched cleaning and security services. I know they’ve switched because their uniform changes. I recall one AGM, when residents queried the security bill, asking why so many guards had to be hired for so much. The MC bowed to pressure and reduced the number of guards. So I no longer see a guard by the swimming pool, who used to have chase unaccompanied kids out of the adult pool. I think to myself, what if one kid drowned, will we ask for a guard back on duty at the post? So I end up doing the nasty thing – I chase the kids out myself.

So we pay cleaners and security guards peanuts and now the NTUC wants to step in and subsidise some cleaning equipment for cleaning companies – on condition that they pass on productive savings to cleaners who can now hope for better pay. Sounds good. I wonder what sort of beaucracy has to be set up to monitor this – that the cleaners DO get higher pay in return for their employers getting subsidies. I hope it’s monitored because it is MY money, or rather taxpayers’ money. In fact, $30m of the Inclusive Growth Fund has already been tapped by 400 companies. So what’s the result then? From what I read in ST today, the 28 cleaning firms on it managed to raise salaries. And the other 370 or so? I ask because another $70m is going to be pumped in. So much money better be accompanied by checks. In fact, we’ve been subsidising employers for their staff’s skills training for some time, and I always wondered what’s the end result. Did all that money go into a black hole?

But the key to raising wages, says cleaning companies, is whether clients will pay. So,  if what used to be done by 10 people, is now being done by nine, will clients be willing to pay the old labour cost of 10 people, and the extra money spread to the nine? At least, that’s how I think it works….. Which is why I wish more was said about the case of the 62 cleaner who now takes home $1,600 a month, double what he used to. So he can operate a new fangled machine, how did this help him jump to twice his salary? He cleaned more spaces? The client loved the way the machine worked? It’s a big-hearted client? More details would have explained his path to higher pay. Can’t just be: Operate machine, get more money!

We don’t want a case of people being promoted or become more productive, and still earn the same because the bosses always have this argument at hand: We have to keep costs down and stay competitive.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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