Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Building Control (Amendment) Bill (Bill No. 10/2020)
Sir, I stand in support of the Bill.
Professionals from the lift industry have shared with me that lift maintenance is known as the 3D industry – it is dark, dirty, and dangerous.
I would like to express my appreciation for the lift technicians who work tirelessly in dark, warm lift shafts to ensure that we can enjoy smooth and safe lift rides in our vertical city.
I have three clarifications on the Bill relating to: (1) facilities for persons with disabilities (PWDs); (2) the progressive wage model (PWM) framework; and (3) and working conditions for lift technicians.
Facilities for persons with disabilities
The new section 22DA allows the Commissioner of Building Control to require a building owner to erect features to facilitate the access to and use of a building by PWDs. I have two concerns here.
First, buildings that are used solely for residential purposes or as a factory are excluded from this section 22DA. Can the Minister share the rationale for excluding residential and factory buildings which are premises that PWDs will need to access?
If residential and factory buildings are excluded from section 22DA, can the Minister share how it intends to ensure that building owners of residential and factory buildings will install features for access by PWDs?
Second, the Commissioner can only require building owners to include features for PWDs if it receives an application from the building owner for approval of plans for the alternation, addition, or repair of a relevant building.
This will mean that the progress of ensuring that our buildings are PWD-friendly is dependent on the building owners deciding to undertake building works.
Can the Minister share whether it has a target for ensuring that most, if not all, buildings in Singapore are PWD-friendly? What plans does the Ministry have to encourage building owners to include PWD-friendly facilities?
Progressive Wage Model framework
Next, the amendments will legislate the PWM for the lift industry. I applaud the efforts to raise the wages of lift maintenance personnel who have to do a very difficult but essential job.
However, the PWM will only apply to Singaporeans and PRs.
The reality is that lift companies have a large number of foreigners because of a severe shortage in lift technicians given the difficult working conditions.
Lift technicians who are foreigners are doing jobs that are equally as difficult and equally as dangerous as the jobs Singaporeans and PRs are doing.
This is not just an issue of fairness. But one of safety and incentives.
Do we want lift technicians who have to ensure the safety of the lifts that we all take multiple times a day to feel disgruntled that their colleague doing the exact same job is being paid much higher than he or she is?
In October 2018, during the debate on the Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Bill I spoke about the need to ensure that the PWM will apply to cleaners who are hired directly by an F&B establishment and for foreign cleaners. I highlighted then that PWM is about increasing productivity and standards. I asked how we will achieve higher productivity and standards if we leave out our foreign cleaners from the PWM bearing in mind that foreign cleaners likely form a bulk of the cleaning sector.
This similarly applies to the lift technicians industry.
MEWR has encouraged employers to incorporate the principles of progressive wages into the wage structure of their foreign cleaners.
Will the Ministry take similar steps to encourage the incorporation of PWM principles into the contracts for foreign lift technicians?
Or will the Ministry also consider eventually extending the PWM to cover foreign lift technicians?
Just in January this year, Minister Chan Chun Sing said “The real competition is Team Singapore, comprising Singaporeans, PRs and foreign workers here, competing with the rest of the world to give our fellow Singaporeans the best chance possible to win, not just in Singapore but across the entire globe.”
How can we say that we are Team Singapore if we discriminate against certain team members. How will a team work well together if we do not reward the same effort and merit with the same pay?
Working environment for lift technicians
Lastly, the Lift and Escalator Sectoral Tripartite Committee has recommended reviewing the Singapore Standards SS 550, the Code of Practice for lifts, to specify higher lighting levels within the lift shaft to facilitate maintenance work. The Ministry accepted the recommendations in late 2018.
I understand that the BCA is also studying the feasibility of improving ventilation within the lift shaft and motor room to create a cooler work environment for the maintenance personnel.
Can the Minister share its progress in implementing these recommendations to improve working conditions for lift technicians?
Can the Minister also share details on how it intends to implement these recommendations?
Sir, notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here
Watch the response here