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MPs debate licensing for cleaning industry

Members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday raised concerns on aspects of the introduction of a licensing regime for the cleaning industry.

SINGAPORE: Members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday debated amendments to the Environmental Public Health Bill in Parliament.

They raised concerns, especially on aspects of the introduction of a licensing regime for the cleaning industry.

Under it, all cleaning businesses involved in general cleaning must possess a valid licence. In order to do so, they must satisfy pre-requisites such as having trained cleaners and adopt a Progressive Wage Model to give cleaners better wages in line with the productivity that comes with training.

Some MPs voiced concerns on the licensing regime.

They asked if requiring all companies to adhere to training compliance would impact on workers' jobs because companies may face increasing costs as they already work on a slim profit margin.

Others asked whether there is a clear link between imposing a training compliance and a corresponding rise in productivity.

There were also concerns on the number of training hours required for workers to rise up the wage ladder.

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said the minimum number of training hours required to comply with the regime is eight hours and that anything beyond that is up to individual companies.

He said: "I think it is worth my while to reiterate that our Progressive Wage Model (PWM) is quite different from a national minimum wage. The PWM is determined through tripartite negotiations. It is not set by political decree. The unions and employers must discuss and they must agree on the appropriate benchmarks used in the Progressive Wage Model in the wage-skill ladder. 

"The licensing regime merely sets up the framework for these agreed benchmarks to be operationalised in a fair and transparent fashion in a level playing field. This tripartite approach is important, in fact crucial and it is a unique success ingredient in the Singapore model. It reduces the risk that workers, especially our older and more vulnerable workers, will lose their jobs as wages rise to unsustainable levels."

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources also introduced enhanced investigative powers and penalties against littering, especially that of high-rise littering.

Clause 5 of the Bill would allow police officers and authorised officers to require owners and occupiers of a flat to provide information that could lead to them identifying the alleged culprit.

Another clause would also double the maximum penalties for littering-related offences from S$1,000 to S$2,000 for the first conviction. Maximum fines for the second, third and subsequent convictions will also be raised.

MPs welcomed this move, especially on enhanced powers to catch high-rise litterbugs.

MP for Bukit Panjang SMC, Dr Teo Ho Pin said despite years of public education, high-rise littering remains a problem and poses a safety hazard.

Dr Teo, who is also the coordinating chairman of the PAP-run town councils said these town councils receive about 2,200 complaints of high-rise littering. Half of them constitute killer litter such as flower pots, windows and even mattresses.

Dr Teo said some of those high-rise litterbugs have mental illnesses and he questioned if the police or authorised officers could be further empowered to take them for proper medical treatment to resolve the root cause of the problem.


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