1969年5月,513事件爆發,在全城風聲鶴唳、人們的日常生活起居備受影響之下,有一群人,必須在鎮暴部隊的護送下風雨不改地照常上班,否則,全城將會爆發比種族衝突更甚的危機。

他們是負責倒掉各家各戶糞穢的倒夜香工友。

倒夜香工友,多數為子承父業,勞動者也多為男士。

在20世紀末後期、完整的自動排污系統設立之前,倒夜香工人扛起的不只是一桶桶的糞穢而已——那是關乎城市公共衛生的重大責任。然而,因為職業的特殊性,這個使命非但沒有被看見,反而被極力隱藏、遺忘。

倒夜香極為辛苦,因此工友們也極為重視下一代的教育,認為只有教育能夠讓孩子們擺脫這份艱辛無比、卻又得忍受他人異樣眼光的行業。倒夜香工友位於齊來亞路的宿舍——潮興公司,在2015年因為讓路於發展而被拆除之前,該建築內依然保存著當年工友們為華教募捐而收到、由大馬華校教師總會贈送的 “維護華教教育” 牌匾。

 

倒夜香工人每週上班7天,幾乎全年無休。雖然按理說他們享有1年12天至18天不等的年假(視年資與職位而定)但所謂年假其實多以津貼補回,由於人手吃緊,他們幾乎沒什麼休假的機會。

工友的故事 
The Story of Night Soil Workers

May 1969, the 513 incidents took the town by storm. People were frightened by the chaos and daily lives were affected. Under such unstable situation, a group of people, however, were forced to carry out their work as usual escorted by anti-riot soldiers or there will be more serious issues than racial conflict.

They were the night soil workers who cleaned every household’s excretion.

Night soil worker, mostly male and ones who carry on after his father.  

In late 20th century and before automatic sewage treatment systems were established, night soil workers shouldered not only latrine pails but also a very important responsibility concerning the city’s public sanitation. However, due to the rather unique nature of this occupation, their mission did not receive much credits or attentions. Instead, they were forgotten or ignored on purpose.

Night soil is a tough job. That’s why the workers emphasis on education of the younger generations. Only the educated ones could get a better life without being despised. The workers’ hostel in Jalan SP Chelliah – Teo Hin Kongsi, was demolished for new developments. There was a tablet presented by The United Chinese School Teachers’ Association of Malaysia as a token of appreciation to these humble workers for their contributions to the development of Chinese educations.

They worked seven days a week, and almost without any day off throughout the year. Although they were given annual leave of between 12 to 18 days (based on seniority and position), but most of their holidays were compensated with incentives. This is because there were short of hands without proper sewage treatment so they had no choice but to work every day.

不過,1960年代的檳島市政局延續英殖民政府的制度,允許每年清明節、中元節、農曆十二月十五和大年初一休假一天,方便多數是華人的工友們。此外,農曆七月二十九也是工友們的特假。此外,市政局也提供免費宿舍、社會保險、加班津貼等福利。

 

倒糞工人每天清晨4、5時就摸黑起床梳洗、吃早餐,準備就緒。工頭分組點名後,大約6時左右,7或8人一組的工友們登上俗稱“36門”的運糞卡車,分為7隊出發到所分配的地區,挨家挨戶倒夜香。各區輪流走,每戶人家兩天清理一次糞桶,也有一些每天需要清理的人家。

一般的工作程序為從廁座坑底的糞桶抽出,加鐵蓋,換上乾淨的糞桶後,把糞穢運送到車裡,再統一載送到污水處理場。過程雖然簡單,但卻非常講究效率,糞桶進出都分秒必爭,因為工友們必須在上午11時之前把糞桶都清理完畢。由於中午時分大家都要吃午飯,所以不適合再倒糞穢。

Anyway, the Penang City Council made a change since 1960s. With the continuation of the British colonial government system, workers were granted a few fixed holidays including Qingming, Zhongyuan, the 15th day of twelfth lunar month and Chinese New Year so they, especially the Chinese workers, could have a little time for their own. Besides this, the 29th day of seventh lunar month was also marked as special holiday and provided free hostel, social insurance, overtime incentives to these hardworking staff.

They woke up every morning at 4 – 5am to get ready for the day. When the supervisor arrived, marked attendance and arranged work shifts, 7 groups of 7 to 8 workers would follow the so called “36 doors” night soil vans and went on their ways to knock on every door at 6am or so. They would visit every house in the designated area, clean the latrine pail every other day or every day (upon request). The procedures start from collecting the pail from the latrine and replace with an empty one. Cover the loaded pail and carry it to the collecting van. The van will then send the collected excretion to the sewage treatment plant. The process may seem simple but it required efficiency. Everything must be done fast and accurate. Because people will have lunch around mid-day, their work needs to be completed before 11am.

潮興宿舍後有一個長形的露天澡堂。每天大家下工後,就會在這裡洗澡、清除身上的氣味。大部分的工人會趕去做其他兼職,有的會到鄉村地區挑糞,也有的會到工地裡當散工。休閒時間,工友們會聚在一起聊天、搓麻將,玩“四色牌”。宿舍以前也有足球場、羽球場等運動休閒空間。工友們每天工作面對糞穢,卻也十分講究宿舍的乾淨,宿舍都會被打掃至一塵不染。

工友對信仰也十分虔誠。每天上工前必須祭拜從中國請來的媽祖、玄天上帝、齊天大聖和大伯公等神祗,祈求一天的工作順利。大伯公尤其是工友們的精神寄託,每年農曆十二月十五會固定祭拜大伯公,這個習俗也流傳至今。

The back of Teo Hin hostel was an oblong sized open-air bathroom. Every day, workers will have their bath here after work to wash away the odour. Most of them did not rest after that. Instead, they would move on to their other jobs, some went on as excretion collector in the rural area or villages, and others as construction site worker and so on. As past time, these workers may gather around for casual chats, mah-jong and “Four Colour Cards”. The hostel used to have soccer field, badminton court too. Because the workers dealt with excretion and so they were very well aware of hygiene. They maintained the hostel clean all the time. The workers’ were true devout too. They would pray to deities that came to Penang all the way from China included Mazu, Xuantian God, Monkey God, and Tuapekkong for a smooth day. Especially the Tuapekkong where the workers would celebrate the 15th day of the twelfth lunar month every year and this tradition is still going on until today.