Company Forces Mak Cik To Climb Stairs

Friday, 18 February 2005

Apparently there's a new manager in the maintenance department who doesn't seem to have a heart. There's this 60 to 70-year-old mak cik who's the cleaner on my floor. I talk to her sometimes, and she always greets me with a lovely crooked-toothed smile. She's much smaller-sized than I am, her arms thin, frail and dark-skinned, completely enveloped in age spots. She shuffles about in her thin-soled shoes, never complaining about her work but instead takes interest in whether or not I have had my lunch.

Today she told me that the cleaners have been banned from using the lifts recently. That in itself is kinda tough--but mak cik has bad knees and she has to climb 5 flights of stairs at least twice a day! I was appalled! >:( I mean, it's fine that the building's management wants to keep up their appearances, but this poor woman is human too, for crying out loud! How can they not consider her age and how that limits her mobility?

I want to do something, but don't know where to start. :-{ Any ideas, anyone?


#1Gravatar imageHilmy says:

I wouldn’t recommend being an activist and publicly try to change the situation without knowing what’s going on. There is a risk that they might just fire her just to make it easy on everyone’s conscience. You gotta find out why this rule is being used so heartlessly, who passed it and who would have authority to change it. Find out if there’s anyone else who feels the same way as you.

After that, it’s the matter of assessing the limits of your capabilities. If management is simply ignorant about her plight, a mass email could help. If management is headstrong but they don’t check on the janitors often, perhaps you could escort her on the elevators now and then to ease her burden, and personally accept responsibility for rebukes if management asks. Harsh, but they’ll have to accept they’re penalizing you for being a good samaritan.

The simplest step could be to let your colleagues get to know the old lady better. The more people know her, the more people will care about her, and the more clout there will be in a decision to take care of her.

#2Gravatar imageLigeirim says:

I don’t think this will help, but I hate management.

Anyway, go with what Hilmy suggested, tho escorting her up and down the lifts might result in the both of you getting fired. Management will definitely be questioning what you’re doing in the lifts instead of at your desk slaving away… but then again, I don’t know the work culture is over there, so don’t mind me.

If management somehow doesn’t know or care, maybe you should talk to the manager who came up with the idea, and see if you can make him see your point, failing which, it’s time to talk to HR. After all, HR is meant to solve problems between employees and bringing this issue to them might make them realise that there are people who find it tough climbing 5 flights of stairs.

On another note, it might not go down too well and they might have implemented it for the sole reason of ‘weeding out’ more elderly staff. Sounds sad, I know, but I’ve heard management say things like that more often than I like…

Either way, find out more first, and then plan your strategy. Good Luck!

#3Gravatar imageruach says:

wow… that’s just wrong. if all the cleaners have been banned from the lifts, i predict in a few days you’ll start seeing sloppy work. get ready for really frightening toilet conditions. 😉

if by maintenance department, you mean the building maintenance, i’m not sure your hr dept can do anything, and good luck getting hold of the manager who came up with this no-lift plan.

i would suggest a petition (after all the extra investigation that’s already been suggested). circulate it among the companies/departments in the building and then send it via management to the maintenance department.

wait. i’m approaching this from a westernized perspective, where people want to get involved to end injustice. :p uhm… good luck.

#4Gravatar imageJeremy says:

its a sad thing to see someone of her age having to do such heavy jobs… shame on her kids for letting her mum doing wht she does…

well since making a whole lot of noise might get the both of you in trouble mayb you could get her a new pair of sandles of better yet shoes so tht the walk up the stairs would be a little bit more comfortable ??
or mayb spare some time to talk to her every once in a while… know tht it does wonders to people of old age…

Hope tht things work out for you and tht aunty…

#5Gravatar imageMichelle says:

Hey guys, thanks so much for your thoughts and suggestions. I’m glad I didn’t jump at the first chance to speak to the head of maintenance directly without considering the repercussions–it didn’t occur to me that poor Mak Cik could possibly lose her job because of my wanting to put things right.

Good idea about raising awareness about Mak Cik, that’s really practical! So far I know the malay staff in my office do stop to chat with her once in a while, but noone else seems to pay her any attention. I shall start making noise. 😀

Okay, here’s the deal with my company–it’s an asset management firm that was a result of a joint venture between 2 companies, to manage the unit trusts under the company (let’s call it OLH) which owns the building. My team of colleagues is actually in a sense ‘outsiders’ to the building in which we work, and so are not subject to the same rules and regulations as the employees under OLH. 😉 So I think if the maintenance manager were to complain about me helping Mak Cik out, he’ll have to talk to the other side of the JV. I hear your apprehensions though–I’m not about to lambast them about it for now. More investigations would be necessary, yes.

The weeding out of older employees is disturbing. But I guess the management would have their practical reasons for embarking on such an exercise. If she does get fired maybe it’ll work out for the better (she won’t have to trudge the 5 flights of stairs every day and worsen her knee condition, for instance).

Come to think of it, I have noticed that it takes longer for the toilets to be cleaned… :-s Bugger.

Making a conscious effort to talk to her is a good idea. My malay is atrocious though, so I’ll have to brush up on it quite a bit. :”> I could start with finding out her name. 🙂 Getting her a pair of shoes may be a bit trickier though.

#6Gravatar imagecorpsie says:

which building?? gosh

#7Gravatar imageMichelle says:

I think it would be prudent not to reveal the exact location… but suffice to say, it’s one of those somewhere along Jalan Ampang. Within the Golden Triangle. 😀

#8Gravatar imagesooaun says:

there should be a cargo or service lift that she could use, check that out…

#9Gravatar imageMichelle says:

There’s no real service lift in the building. Only the big boss gets his own dedicated elevator shaft. 8-|

I spoke to Mak Cik yesterday again, and she tells me that she still uses the lifts but only during off-peak hours (i.e. not at 8:45am, 12pm-2pm, and between 5pm-6pm).

Her name is Sukha. 🙂 Born in 1947, so that would make her… about 58. Oops, I over-estimated her age. :p

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