We call our frontline workers ‘heroes’, but are we really treating them like heroes?

Let’s hear from Yixian, General Manager at Ban Chuan Trading & Engineering Pte Ltd as he shares on the challenges faced by the cleaning industry and its workers, as well as his hopes for the industry.

Ban Chuan currently employs about 340 cleaners. Starting from an admin position, Yixian has gradually taken up more responsibilities over the years and moved up to the position of General Manager. But this GM is like no other. Hear this. When there is a manpower crunch, he puts on his gear and takes on the role of a cleaner himself to support his team – “my guys” – as he calls them.

“I’m happy to help. Clearing rubbish is not anything beneath me, I used to clear dishes,” he shrugged. You heard him right. Such is the grit of this young man. He shares how he also did food delivery after office hours to find out why people are shunning the cleaning industry and instead, going into the food delivery industry.

Yixian, Manager at Ban Chuan Trading & Engineering Pte Ltd

This Company Cares: A Progressive Company with Progressive Practices

Workers are like family members too.

Yixian shares that at Ban Chuan, the hierarchy is rather flat. Most in the company, regardless of their position, has the boss’ number, and are free to seek any help directly!

On his greatest satisfaction at work, Yixian shares that it was really about helping his team at Ban Chuan. Workers at Ban Chuan are valued. Currently, there are 6 cleaners in their 80s who have served with Ban Chuan for 31 years. Often, they directly approach Yixian or the management team on any workplace concerns, and even personal financial issues. One would wonder why these employees are so loyal — because Ban Chuan really walks the talk when it comes to supporting employees!

They care for their workers’ welfare.

Yixian was happy to share the progressive practices that Ban Chuan has adopted, especially towards wages and worker welfare. He hopes more companies would look out for their workers, especially the vulnerable groups.

For their foreign workers, Ban Chuan provides for their housing and utility bills, without deducting a single cent from their salaries. Food allowance is also extended to their Bangladeshi workers.

Ban Chuan also believes strongly in training for their cleaners. They know that training benefits both the company and workers themselves. Yixian shared that their elderly workers are usually more susceptible to injury and one injury is one too many. Hence, the importance of workplace safety training.

“Sometimes they get quite badly injured despite me providing them with elbow and knee support bands to protect the joints,” Yixian shared wistfully.

PWM: Wages to Rise for Cleaners

The wage increases were among new recommendations made by the Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners (TCC), after rounds of discussions with stakeholders.From 2023 to 2028, the base wages of cleaners across will see a yearly increase.

On the topic of fair remuneration, Yixian shared that Ban Chuan has been paying its cleaners beyond the minimum amount. He expects some feedback from the company clients with this recent announcement, but on the whole, he knows that the enhanced PWM for cleaners in the next six years would be positive for the industry and its workers. Hear it from someone who’s in the know!

“To earn that bit more and underpay your workers? I’d rather be able to sleep better at night. At the end of the day, we are all fighting to put food on the table,” said Yixian.

Hey, cleaners have self-esteem too!

While the PWM supports training and wages for cleaners, we want to know what more can be done for our cleaners. Yixian opines that it would need all of us to come together, to chip in to create a better work environment for our cleaners.

Take for example, the job of dish collectors. He supports the move for patrons to put away their own trays. “Can you imagine having to face so many customers every day as a cleaner collecting trays? Some of them get verbally abusive if you’re the slightest bit careless.” Indeed, the job of a dish collector is not pleasant. Yixian shared how the smell lingers on at the end of the day. He would know, because he had done the job himself.

“Similarly, my conservancy guys sometimes face unreasonable demands. I had a resident snap a picture of some dried leaves from his own plants and complained to the Town Council. Trust me, I get calls at 2 am to clean up a piece of tissue even. (laughs) There are times I need to speak up for my guys. Let’s spare a thought for their self-esteem, and at times, can’t we pick up after ourselves?” Yixian appeals.

At the end of the day, individual effort counts — if we can all be more considerate, it makes the work of our cleaners a bit easier. And that’s how we can best support them.

With progressive companies like Ban Chuan setting the example, we hope that more cleaners can be uplifted.

As Labour MP Mohd Fahmi Aliman says, our cleaners have been doing an important job amidst the pandemic, their efforts ought to be recognised. On an individual level, let’s learn to respect, and really understand the work of our cleaners.

Slamming your doors on them when the cleaners clean your corridors? Avoiding taking the same lifts as them? We can surely do better as a society.

Labour MP Mohd Fahmi Aliman on recognising cleaners and NTUC’s commitment to uplift the wages, welfare and work prospects of cleaners Via