Cleaning contractors puzzled over ‘non-essential’ category

Cleaning and disinfecting of buildings and offices are important to help curb the spread of Covid-19

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by TMR FILE

THE Malaysia Association of Cleaning Contractors wants the government to include cleaning as an essential service as cleaning contractors are having problems carrying out their duties amid the haphazard implementation of the third Movement Control Order (MCO 3.0).

President Noruddin Idris said although cleaning and disinfecting of buildings and offices are important to help curb the spread of Covid-19, the cleaning sector is not listed as an essential service.

He said cleaning is categorised as unregulated services under the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumerism, but it does not have a heading (code) for building and office cleaning.

“Meanwhile, public cleaning which comes under the Ministry of Housing and Local Government does not include cleaning of buildings and offices.

“Hence, cleaning contractors are in a dilemma. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry should consider approving their applications to operate,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

The association has more than 200 members with many on the verge of ceasing operation.

Noruddin said most clients have requested cleaning contractors to reduce their manpower to cut down on contract price, but the contractors still need to pay their workers full salary even though they are “benched” during MCO 3.0.

With an average profit of less than 10%, he said cleaning contractors are suffering losses and may have to terminate their business.

“It is ironic that cleaning and disinfection which have been highly sought after since the pandemic broke to help curb the spread of Covid-19 is overlooked by the government as an essential service.

“Who cleans the hospitals, quarantine stations and vaccinations stations, if not cleaning contractors? Yet, they are considered as a non-essential service,” Noruddin said.

Additionally, Noruddin added that it seems as if the problem of worker shortage would never end.

“I believe this is because it is considered a 3D (dirty, dangerous and difficult) job, which does not have an attractive reputation among the locals.

“Minimum salary for professional cleaners should be higher than other sectors. Contract price should compensate for the higher cost of labour incurred by contractors,” he said.

The association’s grouses echoed Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming’s recent statement on the confusion of MCO 3.0 regarding essential services including air-conditioner maintenance and repair, plumbers, photocopier and printer services.

“Critical maintenance and repair is listed as one of the 17 essential services but I think it only applies to the construction sector.

“What about other maintenance and service operations which are critical for the continued operations of other essential sectors?

“For example, if the air conditioning system at a hospital breaks down, we need those in the air-conditioning service sector to do their repair work. For factories producing food and beverages, they also need their air circulation system to be maintained,” he said.

He added that plumbers are also important to ensure that the toilets in hospitals, factories, offices and government buildings run smoothly.

“But which ministry is in charge of approving plumbers to continue to operate?”

Ong said he had received a request from a company whose sales and marketing arm services the photocopiers and provides printing paper to many government ministries and agencies including the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance.

“If such companies are not allowed to operate, the ministries and even hospitals, may not have the required paper to print their documents on and also would not be able to have access to photocopiers and printers which have broken down and are being left unrepaired,” he said.