Singapore — While cleaners may not have received the same kind of recognition as healthcare workers during the Covid-19 crisis, they have been every bit as essential.
The fact is that many cleaners are elderly people in their 60s to early 70s. They may have health issues and do not have the energy they had in their youth. However, they may have to continue working in order to support themselves and perhaps even their loved ones.
One such cleaner, 67-year-old Lee Teng Kan, who works for Get Cleanz, recently told Coconuts that he cleans three buildings every day, using harsh chemicals. His workdays are also longer than they have ever been.
Mr Lee has been in the cleaning industry for five years and yet he has never worked as hard as he’s had to during this pandemic. He told the media outfit that he has been scrubbing industrial buildings located in Woodlands. And while disinfecting bathrooms with detergents has always been part of his duties, he now has to clean other parts of the building that never needed to be disinfected before the outbreak of Covid-19.
A representative for Get Cleanz told Coconuts: “He said that it has been tiring. He starts earlier at 7 am instead of 8 am … and needs to wear masks all the time and wear extra gloves for safety.”
And while he endeavors to end by 5 pm every day, he has had to take later lunches or shorter breaks in order to do the additional work at this time.
Mr Lee, who speaks only Mandarin, he told Coconuts that he wears masks and not only one, but two sets of gloves, and applies “strong-smelling” chemical disinfectant on surfaces. He then waits as the substances take effect and then does another round of wiping down.
And not all areas have the same treatment. Places that are often touched are cleaned more carefully and frequently.
From Monday to Friday, and another half-day in the weekend, Mr Lee, along with five other cleaners on his team, goes over the surfaces on three multi-storey buildings, as well as makes sure that the toilets in each one are extra clean. The cleaners on the team are all in the same age bracket.
According to Coconuts, the cleaners of Getz Cleanz, half of whom are senior citizens, are paid between S$1,400 and S$1,700 a month.
Mr Lee’s children have encouraged him to retire but, because of the economic uncertainties of Covid-19, he may stay at his job a while longer. /TISG