New task force to look at how to raise wages of low-income workers

A new task force will be formed to study how to raise the wages of low-income workers and push productivity growth. This was announced by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Ng Chee Meng in separate Facebook posts yesterday.

Mr Ng said the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower Wage Workers will study how to expand the progressive wage model and partner companies to raise productivity to “foster a win-win for employers and workers”.

He added that this was the result of a meeting with Mrs Teo and Singapore National Employers Federation president Robert Yap earlier yesterday.

Mrs Teo wrote in her post that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had earlier told the trio that such an effort would be “especially beneficial” for lower-wage workers given the Covid-19 situation.

She added that it is important to sustain continued wage growth in sectors where the progressive wage model is mandatory.

“We want to expand (the model) to cover more workers while protecting their employability. Their families depend on them, and we must not take this concern lightly or treat it academically. This is especially because the availability and nature of work is going through deep change at all levels,” she said.

Mrs Teo added: “As we work towards recovery of our economy, this is also a good time to ensure our lower-wage workers too can emerge stronger from the crisis brought about by Covid-19.”

Mr Ng said the idea of the progressive wage model had first been mooted by NTUC in 2012 and implemented in sectors with large numbers of low-wage workers.

“Today, close to 80,000 workers in the cleaning, landscape and security sectors have seen their incomes increase based on built-in yearly wage increase as part of the (model),” said Mr Ng.

He added that wages have also been further raised through other initiatives, such as the Workfare Income Supplement.

NTUC has also advocated for the development of proper rest areas for outsourced workers, said Mr Ng, pointing out that this led to the Ministry of Manpower announcing the Workcare initiative last year.

He said the new work group will let NTUC push for the development of mandatory progressive wage models in more sectors, and allow for the study of other approaches towards raising the wages and well-being of lower-income workers, such as through sectoral or occupational wage benchmarks for sectors where it is more difficult to implement the progressive wage model.

“Together with tripartite partners and industry stakeholders, we will put our heads and hearts together to uplift the wages and well-being of even more lower-wage workers,” said Mr Ng.


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