A seasoned cleaner and dishwasher reveals some insights
The news about Sakae Sushi offering to pay their dishwashers $3000 a
month was the talk of the town last month. To many, these are figures
echoed in executive’s salary-talk conversations, not what you normally
offer to a dish washer in Singapore. But for those in the industry,
those who have toiled as dishwasher, this information and offer, is not
all wine and roses. It is a tough job, they reasoned and it may not even
be a sufficient compensation.
“Singaporeans want a five-day week, high salary, air-con, this job is
too exhausting for most of them, even if you were to offer $3000,” says
Ms Catherine Ang, 51, who has been at this job for more than 10 years
and was a supervisor of the cleaning team at a food court in CBD.
She shares with us the trails and tribulation, scope and scars of the
job so we have a better understanding of the needs and expectations of
these cleaning professionals.
Catherine may be a supervisor but she has to get her hands dirty when they are shorthanded, which is often th
M: What’s tough about this job?
C: We have to stand all day, except for that few minutes when we have
our meals. When the lunch and dinner crowd comes, we don’t even have
time to go to the toilet. It is really unbearable, painful. At the end
of the day, we have to apply medicated oil all over our legs.
M: What is the washing process like?
C: We soak the dishes in a tub of tap water to remove the remnant
bits of food. We then transfer them to a tub of soap water and scrub
them with a sponge. After that we rinse them with water before sending
them into the dryer.
M: How many dishes do you wash in one afternoon?
C: We are talking about thousands, divided amongst 10 people.
M: What is most difficult to clean?
C: Claypots. We can’t soak it when it’s still hot because the pot
will crack. So we would wash the other dishes first, and then come back
to it. Everyone would have to help scrub the hardened rice off the pot.
Many times we couldn’t get it out in time even though we were already
working the fastest we could.
M: How do you know that a dish is clean?
C: I use my hand to check if it’s still oily. This is why I prefer not to wear gloves.
M: But gloves will protect your hands from chemical irritation.
C: Not necessarily. Water will still enter from the opening.
M: So what happens to your hands?
C: They’ll turn red, start to peel and itch. When we wash the cloths with bleach, it will bite our skin.
M: What sight disgusts you the most?
C: I hate it when they throw tissue paper into the dish when they are
done with their meals, especially when there’s gravy in there. Very
disgusting. Last time when I used to work at hawker centre, where people
can smoke, they also like to dump their cigarette butt in. Very
M: Have you read the news about Sakae Sushi offering to pay their dishwashers $3000 per month?
C: Yes I have. It’s sounds like a lot but I can assure you that even
if they were to offer $4000, nobody will do it, or they will not stay
long in the job. Japanese restaurants have A LOT of plate. These days
you can’t even find someone to do washing for just one hawker stall!
M: Why are you still at this job then?
I’m used to it. I raised my three daughters, now all in their
twenties, with this and two other jobs. I would rather slog it out than
to stare at the four walls at home. But may be washing is not for long.
Text and Images by Sheere Ng @ Makansutra