Jakarta's low-skilled workers on the up

Jakarta's low-skilled workers on the up
Appreciation day: Hundreds of PT ISS Indonesia employees enjoy an awards ceremony at the company’s office in Bintaro, South Tangerang.

Forty-year-old Sri Nurnaning-sih looked energetic on stage, moving to the music as the emcee announced her best employee award of PT ISS Indonesia, a service outsourcing company in Bintaro, South Tangerang.

Sri and her colleagues enjoyed the recent event, glamorized with performances from the company's choir, a group of dancers and a popular Kotak music band on a futuristic stage.

On the day, 760 janitors, security guards and gardeners had their work appreciated by the company, which had Asia Pacific CEO Thomas Hinnerskov give an encouraging speech.

Sri was among the best employee award recipients in the highest four-star category, clinching a free trip to Singapore. Starting her ISS career in 2006, Sri was the breadwinner in her family of seven, including her sick husband.

"I come from a very low-income family but now I can afford our living. I was promoted in 2008, the same year when my husband had a stroke," she said, adding that she had been able to pay her husband's medication.

The company recognised Sri, the service supervisor of 13 cleaners and a team leader at the Graha Segara four-story office in North Jakarta, for her good attitude, attendance and performance in the past year.

In Jakarta, where cleaners are inseparable parts of offices, schools and shopping centres, residents often overlook the existence of such services.

ISS, a service outsourcing company that recruits low-skilled workforce for services including cleaning - holds three-monthly awards to boost employee morale as some people see the jobs in its service professions as "low". ISS has 56,000 staff across the nation, 20,000 of which are in Greater Jakarta.

However, despite being looked down upon, such jobs give opportunities for many low-skilled Jakartans to better their lives.

Starting as a cleaner, Wendi Putrama, 29, was able to send his two younger siblings to university.

"With this job, I can pay the university fees of my siblings, one of which is a lecturer assistant in a university in Jakarta now," he said.

A former street punk, Wendi started work at ISS in 2006 as a janitor, earning a minimum wage. Since then he has pursued a career as a "housekeeper", a title at ISS that is equal to a service manager.

Wendy said he found it difficult to find work after he completed his high school studies in 2004.

Besides peddling various goods throughout Jakarta, he took an odd job as a cleaner, earning Rp 15,000 (S$1.50) to Rp 40,000 per day. Later, he received two offers of employment promising a salary much higher than the regional minimum wage, but said he had to pay a lot of money beforehand.

After making the money by selling wallets at Ragunan Zoo, he learned he had been deceived - his money was gone and he was jobless.

He is now responsible for the cleanliness of the 50-story Bakrie Tower in Central Jakarta, together with five team leaders, one supervisor and dozens of cleaners.

New recruits at ISS must undergo training.

ISS vice president of human capital development Ari Kurnianto said the company gave training to staff before they started working and each time before they were promoted, to equip them with the correct attitudes, skills and knowledge.

"We provide training to make sure of our employees' quality and to shape their confidence to be work-field ready," he said.

Younger cleaners see the cleaning service job as a stepping stone to improve their lives.

ISS employee Yuni Sriharyanti, 21, said she wanted to go to college, majoring in art, and later become a guitar teacher.

Yuni - a recipient of the firm's Golden Heart award for reporting found laptops and cell phones - said she was still enjoying her job. She said one of the things she enjoyed was listening to the funny conversations of students in the toilets of Pelita Harapan University campus in Tangerang. However, she still keeps her aspirations with her.

"For now, I'm happy with my job but if there's a chance, I might go to college to study art," she said.

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