Cleaning Industry Warrior – from cleaner to Chief Executive Officer of Cleaning Express


Abdul Aziz Yusof



Photo contributed by Mr Abdul Aziz Yusof
 

When I entered the cleaning industry in 1988, I was only 17. My father was a director in a multi-national cleaning and landscaping company then. Seeing how he thrived as a businessman, I developed a longing to follow his footsteps. To learn the ropes, I started out from the very bottom. While my friends from school were enjoying their holidays, I worked as a janitor, slowly upgrading my skills and moving up the rungs through the years.

As I had taken the long and grueling route to get to where I am today, it has helped me to empathize with the plight and vulnerability of my workers. I know the pains they go through, having to count & stretch every dollar they earn. This is why I am very appreciative and supportive of NTUC’s relentless efforts to progressively improve the allowance of low wage and contract workers and to always ensure that the interests of workers across all levels are met.

When the NTUC Unit for Contract and Casual Workers (UCCW*) was formed in 2006, I decided that I would pay a full year’s membership fees for 100 of my workers out of my own pocket. This allowed my workers to turn to NTUC for assistance in times of need and tap on the various training and skills upgrading grants available for its members. It was a small gesture on my part to show my commitment to the partnership with NTUC and ensure that the welfare of my workers were safeguarded.

I applaud the government for introducing the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) as this exhibited that they truly had the interest of our workers at heart. It is an extremely noble initiative because it now sets a wage guideline that all NEA licensed employers have to follow. This not only motivates the workers to upscale themselves to reach the next rung in the pay ladder but also inspires and enriches their lives.

My long term goal is to accord support and help improve the image of the cleaning industry. Every job is different. This profession must be seen as dignified and well-respected.  Though many still see cleaning as a menial and low-end job, to me, cleaning has a tinge of science and art. In this industry, one needs precision and the right knowledge.  From the use of correct chemicals for various surfaces and finishes to acquiring the right skills and appropriate equipment for the job.  With these skillsets and a correct mindset, we are certain much can be attained and a better job can be done.

While I would like to raise the pay of all my workers, it has proven to be a challenge because the cleaning industry is exceptionally competitive. Our customers are always comparing prices while demanding high standards of service delivery.  If we raise our prices, they will turn to other companies.

To improve the wages of our workers, we have to re-design the jobs. We constantly send our workers for additional training to provide them with opportunities to develop their fullest potential throughout their life and they remain current and are ‘SkillsFuture’ ready.  For some of them, on top of cleaning, they are also trained, for example, to do landscaping or pest control duties, so they are flexible and evolve into multi-skilled workers with performing more job functions.  We also send workers for operator courses so they can operate sophisticated machinery. Automation helps to optimize manpower and make the whole cleaning process more efficient and allows us to be a leaner organisation. As we progress, they will no longer be mere cleaners but known as Service Attendants. My dream is that one day, my service attendants must acquire the same appeal as other high-end service stewards.

*UCCW is now called U Care Centre.

 

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