In October this year Clean India Journal magazine will be entering its 10th year. While the magazine has been taking a challenging path to give an identity to the Indian Cleaning industry and also providing a common platform for interaction, it has been absorbing both the steady growth of the industry and the conflicting forces which if rectified could help the industry to a higher level.
The Building Services segment is the main link between the product suppliers and the end users who now expect high delivery standards, but not methodical in getting into the right kind of agreements with the service providers. Statutory requirements, labour laws, service taxes, minimum wages, etc., vary from state to state and there is no uniformity in the deliverables. The millions of manpower employed by these companies seek dignity of labour and look for future growth and enhancement of special skills.
With requests from various FM companies, Clean India Journal initiated and facilitated the process of bringing together of like-minded service providers under one roof. The Clean India team went ahead and decided to bring together the service providers first on a zonal basis and then on the national level to discuss common issues which can be solved either internally or with the Central Government intervention.
The first meeting held in July at Bangalore, leading FM companies participated enthusiastically and came out with an action plan. Those who attended included Ram Balan, Director-Avon Facility management Services Ltd; Bharathi Kamath, MD-Carewel Facilities Pvt Ltd, India; Shany Jalal, MD-Service Care Pvt. Ltd; Shankar Subramanian, Director-Facilities Management Services-Vestian Global; Shashi Kamal Garg, Managing Director-247 Facility Services Pvt. Ltd; Vikas, CFO-247 Facility Services Pvt. Ltd; C.V. Seshagiri, MD-Adityavani Facility Services Pvt. Ltd; R.G. Naga Raju, Asst. Manager-Operations, KVR Best Property Management Pvt Ltd; and K. Sudhakar, KVR Best Property Management Pvt. Ltd.
The deliberation and proposals included creating distinctive identity for the Cleaning Industry: Whether there is any need to shift the principal employer status to the service provider; minimum wages and increase in wages as per skill and experience; and the need for forming a forum for Facility Services regional wise and also creating an apex body as a regulator.
The second meeting held for the Western region Service Providers in August at Mumbai had similar focus areas of discussion. Clean India Journal sent intimation to over 500 companies across the zone.
Attendees from the service segment included Jolly Kochery, Country Head-ISS Facility Services India Pvt. Ltd, Ashutosh Labroo, Director Human Capital, ISS Facility Services India Pvt. Ltd, Vinay Deshmukh, CEO, Forbes Facility Services Pvt. Ltd, Hemant Ashtaputre, Director, Sparklean Facility Management, Simit Thakur, Managing Director, Neat Space Facilities Services Pvt Ltd, Vineet Pandey, (Director Corporate Services), Kaarya Facility, Dinesh Ahuja, Asst. Manager Sales & Alliances, Kaarya Facility, Saurabh Agarwal, Managing Director, Unify Facility Management Pvt. Ltd, Amit Suryavanshi, Unify Facility Management Pvt Ltd, Parth Rawal, Officer On Special Duty, All Services Global Pvt. Ltd, S. Kumar, Manager (Personnel), All Services Global Pvt. Ltd, Sudhir Taral, Manager-HR, Property Solutions (I) Pvt Lt and Ajoy Kurup, AVP-HR, Property Solutions (I) Pvt Ltd.
What came through this meeting were also issues related to manpower: Not following the minimum wages, skilled manpower still getting minimum wages, LI based agreements which prevents even basic wages and manpower skill development.
Common areas for consideration
The industry participants agreed that there was definitely a need to form an Association to represent the Cleaning Industry to the government and the outside world. This forum can discuss issues like reduction in statutory compliance, low service tax, need to adhere to SLAs, taking legal support and bringing in health & safety requirements.
Recognition of the workforce
Considering the importance the current government is giving to improve the cleanliness and sanitation conditions of the country, the value of the workforce involved in the cleaning activities should be recognised on a national level. The cleaning workers should be accorded greater acknowledgment and given due designations.
An area which can be tackled is bringing in standardisation in cleaning practices and in work culture. There should be conduct audits. Also the regional Forum will help exchange information between the service providers so that there is more transparency and the vendor companies can speak in the same voice.
Even though a few companies felt that it is absolutely necessary for the client company to be the principal employer, the industry was still not ready to make this change.
Minimum wages and increase in wages as per skill and experience
This is an issue which needs the intervention of the Central government. To attract skilled labour the minimum wages should be standardised throughout the country with variable additional benefits. There should be slabs in wages depending on the certification the employers acquire over the years. This will encourage inter-state manpower sourcing. A major issue of a cleaning worker is that he/she is being considered under the unskilled labourer category. Today, the minimum wages vary from state to state and place to place. It was decided that for the Hygiene Specialist to get better income, the minimum wages have to be increased and made uniform nationally. Another suggestion was to have a Basic wage structure plus PF-STD, ESI-STD, Gratuity, fixed bonus, CL and PL. The wage slab should be created according to the skills and experience.
Another point which needs Government support is workers training. The Government should be approached to help in Vocational training and certification in the PPP model. In existence is a government policy for training manpower which covers admin expenses and tuition fees on prescribed criteria.
Both the interactive meetings were very fruitful in terms of the concrete suggestions tabled and the enthusiasm shown by the Cleaning Industry to achieve organised working conditions and growth.
The meeting ended with participants feeling that a good beginning has been made. The participants appreciated the initiative taken by Clean India Team. By the time this issue of Clean India Journal reaches readers, the FM-North Meet would be over.
This will be followed by a combined meeting of all the zonal representatives at Mumbai in October. We hope that concrete proposals will emerge out of this national level meet.