Saturday, 24 November 2012

100,000 workers to benefit from progressive wage model

NTUC aims to raise their pay, skills, productivity in the next 2 to 3 years
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 22 Nov 2012

SOME 100,000 Singaporean workers stand to get a job boost in the next two to three years with the labour movement's help.

These are workers that the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) can "potentially" reach to boost their pay, productivity, skills and career prospects, said its secretary-general Lim Swee Say yesterday.

Besides targeting workers by sectors to implement the plan, the NTUC also signalled a shift yesterday to zero in on employment hubs with large concentrations of workers such as Changi Airport and small and medium- sized enterprises.

Since June, the NTUC has rolled out training and job redesign plans that it called "progressive wage models" to systematically lift the pay of workers in sectors like cleaning, transport and childcare.

Giving an early report card yesterday, Mr Lim said the model is "not just a wage ladder" but also a four-in-one plan that raises workers' productivity, skills and job prospects.

Explaining the focus on Changi Airport, the NTUC's assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong said: "We see a lot of outsourced workers there, trolley pushers, porters, toilet cleaners... We also want to make sure that their career progression must be there."

She added that the NTUC will be taking "certain steps" but needs time to work on them.

A Changi Airport Group (CAG) spokesman said there are about 28,000 airport workers, including blue-collar staff, professionals and executives, with the "vast majority" hired by partners and contractors.

He said the CAG will work with the NTUC and partners to explore how to boost the airport workers' productivity, welfare and job prospects.

While citing 30 cleaners, 300 drivers and 253 childcare centre attendants who saw pay hikes of 5 per cent to 20 per cent this year as examples of early progress, Mr Lim said it is still too early to count the successes.

The labour chief warned that firms will face higher wage bills: "We must accept that wages will go up."

But he was quick to add that unions will work with firms to ensure that pay hikes are sustainable and based on productivity gains.

A small business that has welcomed help to upgrade its workers' skills is Falcon Logistics Services. The home-grown transport firm has seven trucks and vans, and seven drivers. This year, its director Prathib M. Balan chanced upon an NTUC scheme online to subsidise drivers who upgrade driving licences from Class 3 to 4.

It signed up for the scheme and two of its workers will start training to be Class 4 drivers next month. A Class 4 licence will allow them to drive bigger trucks, deliver more goods and earn higher pay. Both drivers earn $1,300 monthly, and have been promised $2,000 a month after they complete the training next year.

One of the drivers, Mr Sharavanan V. Tamilchelvam, 24, is looking forward to the higher pay: "Without the subsidy and supportive boss, I would have taken longer to learn Class 4.

"But I have to pass the Class 4 driving test first, and I must work hard after that."

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