On hospital cleaners, contracts and benefits

Bernama pic.

By Noruddin Haji Idris

We wish to clarify several issues pertaining to the article “PSM: Over 50,000 hospital cleaners short-changed by employers” published on Aug 9.

For the past 15 years, hospital cleaning was entrusted to a member of the Malaysia Association of Cleaning Contractors (MACC). The cleaners were well taken care of and enjoyed all benefits as stated in the labour law, and more.

However, when minimum wage was introduced in 2013, the company requested a review of its contract price to cover the additional cost in salary. This was rejected, and the contract was awarded to other cleaning contractors who offered a much lower price.

The failure of most cleaning contractors and even building and facilities managers is to realise the actual cost of cleaning, especially the cost of labour. In most cost breakdowns of cleaning contracts, manpower cost only covers salary, EPF and Socso contributions. The cost of providing paid annual and medical leave is not covered, and is most often not taken into consideration when determining the cost of the cleaning contract.

Hospital cleaning, being a 365-working day contract, also involves overtime cost for rest days and public holidays. Again, this cost is not covered or taken into consideration. Thus, there will be a marked difference between contractors who take these costs into consideration and those who do not.

The problem is, building and facilities managers who are unaware of these costs tend to award the contract to the lowest bidder. Since the cost of providing paid annual and medical leave, as well as the overtime cost for rest days and public holidays, are not taken into consideration in the price offered, how do you expect these contractors to provide such benefits for their workers?

Accusing cleaning contractors of victimising cleaners is easy, but looking deeper into the root cause of why this happens would be a better approach.

We at the MACC are trying our best to create more reliable and responsible cleaning contractors. Our members are tied by our code of conduct, which stresses accountability and integrity in conducting business.

However, we need the support and cooperation of the contractors to be more responsible in their bidding, as well as the building and facilities managers to choose the right contractor with the right price.

Noruddin Haji Idris is president of the Malaysia Association of Cleaning Contractors.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.