Singapore

'That's my salary': Pek Kio Market toilet caretaker on why paying 20 cents entrance fee matters


If you’ve been grumbling about or trying to sneak into the public toilet to avoid paying that entrance fee, now might be a good time to just pay up.

While some may scoff at the notion of an entrance fee, for Kumar it is his livelihood. 

Kumar is a toilet caretaker at Pek Kio Market & Food Centre and in a video posted by local digital publisher Our Grandfather Story (OGS) on YouTube on Tuesday (June 14), he spoke about how paying a small sum of 20 cents when entering the toilet has an impact on his salary.

In the video, he takes host Amrit Kaur Jastol through what a regular day is like for him — from preparing cleaning solutions and collecting the 20-cents fee to working up a sweat cleaning the toilets.

“You mean your salary is dependent on the people who pay 20 cents to enter the toilet?” Jastol asked.

“Yes, that’s my salary,” he replied. 

Kumar added that the purchase of tissues and chemicals for his daily work all come out of his own pocket. He said that he averages between 12 and 14 hours of work a day and only takes a day off once every three months, when the hawker centre is closed.

On June 15, OGS posted about Kumar on Facebook and the comments section was filled with worried netizens who wondered if this was a case of an employee being exploited.

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There were also a number of Facebook users who praised Kumar for keeping the toilets squeaky clean.

“Been there, the toilet is super duper clean. No joke. Stainless, dry and no foul smell,” one Facebook user commented.

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Given the slight uproar from netizens, OGS dropped a couple of Facebook comments on June 16 to clarify the situation.

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“As we have only interviewed Mr Kumar, these accounts are only representative of his experiences. We cannot confirm that all toilet caretakers do not draw a monthly salary. However, the entrance fee does make up part of their earnings,” the comment read.

OGS went on to say Kumar is thankful for the public support “but would like to assure everyone that he entered the contract willingly, knowing its terms”. 

In another update, OGS mentioned that Kumar has been “in distress” since the June 15 post was published.

“He would like to add that he has been working with the contractor for the last 10 years, and is very grateful for his livelihood. OGS has extended our support to Mr Kumar, and we understand that the relevant parties are in a dialogue on the matter,” the update read.

OGS added that comments will be muted to protect Kumar’s mental health.

A 2019 Seedly article said that the toilet entry fee is part of a toilet caretaker’s monthly wage.

However, the article included a caveat that the basic monthly salary of a toilet caretaker ranges from $400 to $1,300 a month.

After deducting expenses such as the water bill and soap, the salary of a toilet caretaker ranges from between about $690 and $1,590 a month, Seedly wrote.

AsiaOne has reached out to the Restroom Association of Singapore (RAS) for more information on how toilet caretaker contracts are issued in Singapore.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said on its website that clean public toilets are a key aspect of public health.

With NEA’s support, RAS developed and launched The Happy Toilet Programme in July 2003 where public toilet operators are given ratings — from three-star for meeting minimum standards to as high as five stars for going above and beyond minimum standards.

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Toilet owners in places such as hawker centres and coffee shops are encouraged to participate in the programme.

ALSO READ: World Toilet Day: Singapore public toilets more jialat than before, how ah?

amierul@asiaone.com



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