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Who is to blame – Client or Contractor?

by Clean India Journal Editor
0 comment

Bhupendra Singh

Every client has a different requirement. There are some who have a five-star premise and expect five-star service by paying pittance. But when you explain to the client the procedure and necessity for cleaning a particular area, the requirement of equipment and chemicals along side skilled manpower and the results of such cleaning, they definitely will agree on better payments. It’s a matter of educating clients.

Contractor’s employees

Parmeshwar,
Creative Management Solutions India Pvt Ltd, Bangalore

Where is the question of asking the principal employer for paying minimum wages? They are my employees; I am recruiting them, training them, putting them in service, giving them wages, then where is the question of the principal employer paying him benefits? I will have to pay them their PF, ESIS, etc. Why should we relate our employee with the principal employer? If there is any relationship, it is between the principal employer and the employer. Whether the employer is agreeing upon a contract on 5% or 10% service tax with the principal employer is the employer’s concern. The employee will be given his wages, his benefits, and bonus irrespective of the contract terms.

It is a matter of our company policy. We give our workers basic wages, PF, ESIS, bonus and statutory holidays. The problem of the client not giving anything more than minimum wages or less service tax amount is our problem and not the employee’s problem. It is a risk we are taking as an employer.

Being upfront

Ronnie Almeida,
Shona Corporate Services Pvt Ltd, Mumbai

It’s a matter of every individual’s perspective. If a client believes in following the statutory norms and pays the wages and benefits, he will pay the servicing company. If he does not pay, we should not take up the contract. Today, if service providers are ready to take up such contracts, they are the ones who were probably working with some MNCs and one fine day decided to start their own company. These companies tend get into illegal practices to get their equations right. But this is not the case with small companies only. Last week, I was sitting with a client, who told me that my competitor was ready to take up the contract for a lesser amount. I refused to take up the contract for less. The client came back to me and we bagged the contract because, the client lost trust in my competitor who was ready to do ‘adjustments’ to get the contract. Since, I was upfront in not compromising, I got the contract. If you lose one contract, you are not going to lose the whole world. Put your foot down and don’t compromise on minimum wages, as ultimately it is those poor workers who toil for us and build our reputation, who are going to suffer.

Employee’s benefits

Ronnie Almeida

Many complain that workers look at benefits as a cut in their wages. It is our responsibility to make them understand about the PF deductions and its benefits. They do not jump jobs if they are benefitted. If you do not pay them the benefits and another company lures them with the same benefits, he will certainly switch jobs. But, if you are giving them wages on time and the PF is being deposited into his PF account, he certainly will stick to his job. We have to make them understand that with PF and ESIS, their family will be covered even for medical expenses. In case of any unfortunate incidence, his family will have the money to survive and not be on the streets.

Solutions in hand

All said and done, more than 50% of these companies that participated in a sample survey by Clean India Journal believe that statutory or other benefits and higher wages to workers can be given to them only if the principal employer provides for it. While the rest included those medium & small companies which did not take up such contracts and those bigger ones which provided for all benefits irrespective of the principal employer.

The housekeeping sector is showing a wide disparity between two segments – one that is striving to be ethical & professional and the other, which adopts unethical & unprofessional methods to stay in business. But, the existence of companies that are ready to work on unethical grounds is “hampering the healthy growth of this industry”.

Besides the issues within the sector, some of the major challenges before the housekeeping sector include the minimal awareness level about the science of cleaning at the client level; the indifferent attitude towards cleaning; demand for best performance at low rates; short term service contract/termination of contract; among others.

While, many housekeeping companies understand that by spreading awareness on the cleaning science and educating clients on the need for ethical practices could make a difference, not many have been successful. This could be either because the service providers are not well-versed with the subject of cleaning themselves or are into this business for a fast buck. They pick up a handful of workers from the nearby site, give them on-job training, deploy second hand machines and sign a contract for an year. They pay workers just about enough, make profits and move on to the next job.

The big housekeeping companies, on the other hand, invest in their workforce and do business on much higher margins. They have well equipped training facilities to groom their workers’ skills. They enter into much bigger contracts, educate the client, invest in the required equipment and offer professional services.

The medium sized housekeeping companies having a workforce between 500 and 3000 workers strive to do better. Though they do not have full fledged training facilities, they provide basic training in house and put them with the experienced workers at the site to learn the job. “In Kolkata, we don’t have a training structure as such. We give them basic training in house and put them with some experienced workers on site to learn the job.”

The workforce employed in this sector is either school dropouts or those who have completed education between Std IX-XI. According to the World Bank report of July 2009, 48 out of 100 students in India pursuing secondary education do not go beyond that level. At least 37% students fail before the final examination and 11% drop out between Std IX and XII. The housekeeping sector, considered as one of the largest employment generating sector has been identified by the Micro, Small and Medium Establishment, the Ministry of MSME, which has recently begun providing formal training in soft service skills.

Out of the companies that responded to the survey, mostly in the small and medium category, more than 48% had a workforce ranging between 100-500 workers, followed by 30% in the below 100 category. More than 20 companies CIJ spoke to employ a combined workforce of over 13,400.

Some of the solutions suggested by these companies include proper training facilities, government intervention to check payment of minimum wages and benefits, minimum contract term of at least three years…

“When we take up a contract, we invest in manpower and machines, which can be recovered over the contract period. One year is too short a period to recover costs. A minimum of three years should be the stipulated period of a contract,” suggested one of the service providers.

Finally, it all depends on the client’s understanding about the whole concept of cleaning and for this to happen, one has to spread awareness and educate the client company.

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