Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Cleaners in Singapore to see wages increase over 6 years from 2023 under progressive wage model

Move set to benefit 40,000 workers across 1,500 cleaning businesses in Singapore
By Jolene Ang, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2021

Cleaners will see their wages continue to go up each year from 2023, over six years, after proposals by a tripartite committee on the cleaning wage ladder were accepted by the Government yesterday.

From 2023 to 2028, the base wages of Singaporean and permanent resident cleaners across all job levels will increase each year. This will benefit about 40,000 cleaners across about 1,500 cleaning businesses in Singapore.

The first adjustment in 2023 will see base wages of general and indoor cleaners increase by, for example, almost 20 per cent from $1,312 next year to $1,570.

The move is meant to narrow the income disparity between cleaners and other workers. Under previous updates to the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) in 2016 and 2018, cleaners were slated to get 3 per cent annual wage increases from last year to next year.

The latest wage increases were among new recommendations made by the Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners (TCC), after it conducted another round of reviews of the model.

The PWM, a ladder that sets out minimum pay and training requirements for workers at different skill levels, was launched in the cleaning sector by the TCC in 2012. It has been a compulsory condition since 2014 for the licensing of cleaning companies.

The TCC - which comprises representatives from the labour movement, industry, service buyers and the Government - also recommended having cleaners trained in workplace safety and health protocols by the end of next year.

This is to ensure their personal safety when carrying out cleaning tasks, especially in the light of increased cleaning demands due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Employers should also send cleaners for one of the core Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) modules identified by the TCC for their relevant job levels.

The PWM training guidelines had earlier required that all resident cleaners attain the minimum two WSQ certificates next year.

With the latest recommendations, cleaners will have until December next year to complete the two modules.

Ms Phyllis Lim, deputy director of the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC) U Care Centre, which supports low-wage workers, said in a press statement yesterday that training class sizes have been reduced to adhere to Covid-19 safe management measures.

"The new timeline is to allow sufficient time for cleaning businesses to comply with the training requirements... By the end of 2022, they should be able to send their cleaners (for the modules)."

Another recommendation was that beyond 2025, cleaners in lower job rungs must complete one additional module, while those in higher job rungs must complete two extra modules.

The list of WSQ training modules has been updated, and will periodically be updated to ensure its relevance, the TCC said.

The Ministry of Manpower, National Environment Agency, SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore said in a joint statement yesterday that the recommendations will "ensure significant wage growth and skills upgrading for cleaners, and develop a more competent and productive cleaning workforce".

They said: "Together, our collective whole-of-society efforts will uplift our lower-wage workers."

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said in a Facebook post: "I am glad that many of us are more aware of the value of work our cleaners do... Pandemic or not, uplifting the lives of our lower-wage workers matters to us."

Singapore's cleaning industry lauds increase in wages as recognition of workers' efforts, risks
By Jolene Ang, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2021

The cleaning industry welcomed the updates to the sector's Progressive Wage Model (PWM) announced yesterday, saying the move to increase wages is also an affirmation of workers' efforts and risks undertaken.

This is especially so in the light of increased cleaning demands due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The proposal for a six-year schedule for wage increases put forth by a tripartite committee on the cleaning wage ladder was accepted by the Government yesterday. It is meant to narrow the income disparity between cleaners and other workers.

This will allow about 40,000 cleaners across some 1,500 cleaning businesses in Singapore to see their wages go up each year over six years, from 2023.

Mr Tony Chooi, a member of the Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners (TCC) and director of cleaning and environmental services provider BNL Services, said he is glad that recognition is being given to front-line workers such as cleaners.

"They have been taking more risks than many of us have, in cleaning up and ensuring that the environment is safe for everybody," he said at a press briefing yesterday.

Ms Tan Wei Ying, corporate service director at cleaning and conservancy company LS 2 Services, told The Straits Times her company is "aligned with the goal of providing more for our cleaners".

"They are valuable resources contributing to Singapore's clean and green city," she said.

She noted that the company's clients have thus far recognised the efforts and risks that cleaners have been taking amid the pandemic. Both parties will work together to discuss their budgets and figure out the best way to handle the increased costs from the wage increase, she added.

Mr Chooi also acknowledged the increased cost burden for cleaning companies. "That is why we are asking for a two-year runway to 2023, before these salaries kick in, so we have time to price our future tenders correctly," he said.

"If the contracts are long-term, stretching beyond 2023, we will have time to negotiate with our service buyers to see how we can reach a mutually agreeable solution to fund the increase in salaries," said Mr Chooi, who is also president of the Environmental Management Association of Singapore.

Ms Chia Mui Noi, a general cleaner who joined LS 2 Services last year, leads the cleaning team at a junior college.

General cleaners are on the lowest rung of the wage ladder, although team leaders like Ms Chia at every wage level get an additional $100 a month.

Her main role is to supervise and inspect cleaning tasks such as classroom and canteen cleaning, and the sanitising of high-touch areas.

The 61-year-old said she was very happy to hear about the wage increments, especially since she had taken a pay cut when she joined the company. She was previously a healthcare cleaner - which is on a higher rung of the ladder - at a hospital for about 10 years before assuming her new role.

"It is lower pay but I wanted a change of industry and direction. There is more work-life balance (in her new job)," she said, noting that the health risk is higher in a hospital job, while working hours are also longer.

NTUC assistant director-general Zainal Sapari, who chairs the TCC, said the six-year schedule for wage increases aims to provide transparency for cleaning companies and service buyers to apprise tender contracts objectively.

The schedule "provides greater certainty to service providers and service buyers to price and award the cleaning contracts that would be fair to all stakeholders, including our cleaners", he noted.

Mr Zainal added that there was "no particular formula" as to how the wage increases were derived.

"It's really based on a wage negotiation where we also made a relative comparison to what the workers could get in competing industries."

Progressive Wage Model implementation can't be rushed: Manpower Minister Tan See Leng
Considerations of employers, workers and service buyers need to be taken into account
By Jolene Ang, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2021

The implementation of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) cannot be rushed as negotiations are often not straightforward and the considerations of multiple parties - such as workers, employers and service buyers - need to be taken into account, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng yesterday.

The model is a ladder that sets out minimum pay and training requirements for workers at different skill levels in various sectors.

Dr Tan was responding to criticism on the time taken for the model to be implemented in some sectors.

It typically takes three to four years from the identification of a sector to be covered by progressive wages to workers receiving the pay increases.

For example, for the cleaning sector, the PWM was announced in 2012 and took effect in 2014. Wages increased from 2017.

On Monday, the Government accepted proposals by a tripartite committee on the cleaning wage ladder, and cleaners will see their wages continue to go up each year from 2023, over six years.

In the security sector, the Government accepted recommendations to implement the PWM in 2014 and it took effect in 2016, with wages increasing from 2019.

In the landscape sector, the PWM was accepted in 2015 and implemented in 2016. Wages increased from last year.

Speaking at a virtual briefing on the behind-the-scenes workings of the PWM, Dr Tan said the aim is to implement a wage model that is not just beneficial to a sector, but also sustainable over the medium to long term.

There could be disengagement and "disemployment" over the long haul if a fast and blunt method "where we just decide and move on" is used, he said, referring to a situation where workers are laid off when employers have to pay higher wages.

This may not necessarily achieve the long-term, desired end result of the PWM, which is to help workers acquire better skills and higher productivity, and reduce income inequality, the minister added.

When contacted, the ministry declined to elaborate on its use of the term "disemployment", which has been used sparingly in the past.

During yesterday's media briefing, NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng also addressed the disadvantages of a national minimum wage compared with the PWM.

A flat minimum wage that is set too high could create "disemployment" and a loss of jobs as workers are made redundant if businesses are unable to accommodate the increased costs, Mr Ng said.

"If you set it too low, then it becomes actually a wage ceiling... so even though the PWM is a more involved process that may take a bit more time, we are still going at it, to really reduce the downsides of minimum wage to PWM... (and give the PWM) a runway to raise wages."

Dr Tan noted that there will be three more sets of recommendations in the pipeline in the coming months. These will be for wage increases in the security, landscape, and lift and escalator sectors.

The newly formed tripartite clusters for food services, retail and waste management PWMs are also making headway, Dr Tan added.

The Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers is also looking at ways to cover the various occupational groups under progressive wages. This will benefit low-wage workers employed in similar occupations but distributed across the various sectors. More plans will be announced soon, the minister added.

The PWM for the lift and escalator sector was announced in 2018 and will be implemented next year, while the wage model for the waste management sector was announced in January without a timeline on when it would be implemented.

Plans to cover the food services and retail sectors under the PWM were unveiled in March, with the roll-out estimated to take two to three years.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad added that "it took us some years to understand" the cleaning, security and landscape sectors.

"(The implementation of the PWM) was a bit more cautious initially because the industry was learning - 'what is the PWM and how do we transform ourselves to meet it?'," said Mr Zaqy, who chairs the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers.

"It also takes time for industries to transform... The transformation now enables them to re-engineer themselves and be able to pay workers better."

Helping low-wage workers in Singapore climb the wage ladder
To raise the salaries of cleaners, the Government has accepted a proposal to progressively raise the basic monthly pay of Singaporeans and permanent residents working in outsourced cleaning jobs from $1,236 currently to $2,420 in July 2028. Insight examines the bold move.
By Charmaine Ng and Jolene Ang, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2021

It was slim pickings for gardener Lim Goh Heng when he joined the landscape maintenance sector in 2010 but his prospects have blossomed somewhat, thanks to a trade union initiative that is changing workers' lives across the island.

There is no doubt Mr Lim and others like him needed a helping hand. His pay in 2010 was $700 a month, putting him among the bottom 20 per cent of Singaporean earners.

This group had drawn the short straw on pay, with their real incomes rising by only 0.3 per cent from 2001 to 2010.

But Mr Lim's fortunes have taken a turn for the better and he now earns just over $2,000 a month - a sum that allows him to cover the daily expenses incurred by him and his wife, as they do not have any children to support them.

Mr Lim, 72, attributes his higher wages to the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), which kicked in for the landscape industry in 2016.

Landscaping is one of three sectors that have implemented the PWM, which enables low-paid workers to take up skills training in order to move up the wage ladder.

The scheme was initiated by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) for cleaners in 2012 to ensure that low-wage workers were given the opportunity to earn more.

Then labour chief Lim Swee Say said the NTUC's goal was to help 100,000 low-wage workers by 2015.

This goal appears to have fallen short. The PWM covered about 85,000 workers in cleaning, security and landscape maintenance jobs as at March this year.

Key criticisms of the PWM include its narrow scope of coverage of low-wage workers and its slow implementation to more industries.

There are about 470,000 low-wage Singaporean workers, according to the number eligible for Workfare, a wage supplement scheme targeted at the bottom 20th percentile of earners.

Workers qualify for Workfare if they earn a gross monthly wage of not more than $2,300 a month. These include employees, self-employed workers and people who classify themselves under both categories.

The committee, comprising representatives from the Government, unions and employers, called for the biggest jump in basic wages since the initiative was introduced in 2012.

The minimum pay for a cleaner on the lowest level of the PWM will jump from $1,312 in 2022 to $1,570 in 2023, a rise of almost 20 per cent.

Minimum pay for the same cleaner will hit $2,420 by 2028, nearly double the $1,236 he or she must at least earn now.

A Straits Times analysis found that the salaries of workers covered by the PWM - cleaners, security officers and landscape maintenance workers - have risen significantly over the years.

In 2012, when the PWM for cleaners was put forward, these workers were earning a median gross monthly income of $1,082, including Central Provident Fund contributions by their employer, or $1,000 excluding contributions.

Pay began rising after the scheme started in 2014. Cleaners received a median gross monthly income of $1,535 last year, including employer CPF contributions, or $1,400 excluding contributions.

This was a 41 per cent increase in the median gross monthly income - surpassing the pace of wage increase for full-time employed residents at the 50th percentile in the same period, which saw a 30 per cent increase.

One key reason for this is that the basic wage floors under the PWM for the three industries have been moving towards the median gross monthly income of the 20th percentile of workers (see chart).

And the income gap between workers covered by the PWM and the 20th percentile of resident workers is set to narrow further, with the latest PWM basic wage recommendations for the cleaning industry for 2023 to 2028 benefiting 40,000 workers.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Thursday (June 10) that the sustained wage increases for cleaners over the past decade were a result of "close tripartite collaboration, as well as consistency and perseverance in efforts".

The basic wage increases under the PWM for cleaner Enih Subita, 61, have allowed her to support her family. She has five children, including her eldest daughter who is married, and four still in school.

When she became a cleaner in 1998, Madam Enih earned $750 a month. That has doubled to about $1,500 as she is now a team leader at ISS Facility Services.

"I hope to earn more in the future and attend more training to learn more skills," she said.

Security officers and landscape maintenance workers can also look forward to similar wage increments as the tripartite partners conclude their negotiations for these industries in the next few months, said Dr Tan on Thursday.

The PWM will also become mandatory in the lift maintenance sector next year - a move announced in 2018.

But while cleaners, security officers and landscape workers have much to cheer about, things are less upbeat for low-wage workers outside of these industries.

There are still about 32,000 Singaporeans taking home less than $1,300 a month, as noted in Parliament last November by Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad in response to a question posed by Workers' Party (WP) MP Jamus Lim.

The revelation sparked debate in Parliament, with views divided on how best to raise the wages of these workers.

WP chief Pritam Singh called for a universal minimum wage, noting that Singaporean workers should earn at least $1,300 a month. He added that the PWM has taken too long to implement, with only three sectors covered over eight years.

The proposal drew sharp responses from People's Action Party MPs, including Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang, who warned that a minimum wage would result in low-wage workers losing jobs.

The debate focused on two key weaknesses of the PWM - it covers too few workers and its expansion to more sectors has been too slow.

The NTUC and the Government addressed the first concern, noting that they would expand the PWM to more sectors, more than doubling its coverage of 85,000 workers to 218,000.

Recommendations for this are expected to be released by the end of this year, Mr Zaqy had said.

The expanded coverage will include workers in the food services and retail sectors, which have some of the largest numbers of low-wage staff, as well as about 50,000 in-house cleaners, security officers and landscape maintenance workers as the PWM now covers only outsourced workers.

Dr Tan, the Manpower Minister, addressed the second criticism - the slow implementation of the PWM to more sectors.

Typically, it has taken between three and four years from the identification of an industry to be covered - whether cleaning, landscaping or security - to workers actually receiving pay rises.

The PWM was mooted in 2012 and took effect for cleaners in 2014.

The Government accepted recommendations to implement the PWM for the security sector in 2014 and it took effect in 2016, with wages rising from 2019 to allow service buyers and employers time to adjust.

The landscape maintenance sector's PWM was accepted in 2015 and implemented in 2016. Wages increased from last year.

Dr Tan said it takes time for negotiations, which are often not straightforward, to conclude between unions, employers and service buyers.

If the PWM is bluntly applied without the buy-in of these stakeholders, there could be job displacements in the long term, he added.

Economist Terence Ho noted that the PWM allows for basic wages to be tailored to specific sectors, minimising the likelihood of job losses.

"A higher minimum wage would potentially boost earnings for more workers, but could have a larger impact in terms of reducing employment, whether due to displacement of workers or by making hiring less attractive," said Associate Professor Ho, who is from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

"This would be particularly for less skilled or productive workers, or vulnerable segments such as the youth or elderly."

He added that empirical evidence from other countries on the impact of raising minimum wages is mixed and depends on economic conditions.

These include whether demand is strong or weak, employer numbers, if automation can replace labour and how readily firms can pass on labour costs to consumers, said Prof Ho.

But there is "really not any good technocratic way" of deciding how minimum wages - within the confines of the PWM or not - should be set, said economist and former Nominated MP Walter Theseira, who is an associate professor at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

"Economists can certainly suggest, with some research, what the market effects of different wage levels could be in terms of possible risks to employment and business sustainability, although their estimates might be quite rough.

"But in the end, it seems to be a political and societal decision."

The Covid-19 pandemic may have also presented some opportunities for unions and the Government to push for higher wages for these low-wage workers, said Prof Ho.

This is due to tighter curbs on the entry of work permit holders, which could increase demand for local workers and exert upward pressure on wages in the immediate term, he said.

Prof Ho also noted that disruption to the foreign manpower supply due to the pandemic may also prompt firms to strengthen their local workforce by offering better pay and working conditions.

But even as the coverage of the PWM is set to expand, the question of whether wages have increased meaningfully remains.

While data shows that the PWM has succeeded in reversing wage stagnation in the cleaning, security and landscape maintenance sectors, part of those wage increases were, in fact, a "catch-up", said Prof Ho.

"Hence, the challenge is to sustain real wage increases going forward."

But benchmarking wage rises under the PWM to the median wage increase would not be enough to improve the relative lot of low-wage workers, apart from maintaining current levels of income inequality, noted Dr Theseira.

Instead, it may be better to set wage increases under the PWM to achieve a reduction in relative income inequality, he added.

"However, having a better sense of the potential impact of these changes on the labour and service market (through a high-quality study) is critical, because achieving the target while generating significant economic disruption wouldn't be a success either," said Dr Theseira.

He added that there have not been any high-quality studies that establish the facts relating to the PWM. Data that would facilitate such research is also not publicly available, said Dr Theseira.

Any assessment of whether the PWM has worked would also have to consider whether the covered industries have experienced productivity increases - a key feature that sets it apart from a universal minimum wage.

The question of whether productivity has increased from skills training and the adoption of technology is a critical aspect that needs to be studied, as it relates to the long-term impact on businesses and employment, said Dr Theseira.

Mixed feedback from employers is another obstacle limiting the expansion of the PWM.

Association of Strata Managers president Teo Poh Siang said he does not feel that the quality of workers under the PWM has significantly improved in his nearly two decades as a property manager, despite his clients having to pay more for their services.

While Mr Teo acknowledged that these workers should be given the opportunity to earn higher wages, he also laments the business challenges he faces as a managing agent from increased costs.

"As service buyers, we are paying more, but we don't see how we are getting more value," he added.

Similarly, service providers such as cleaning companies, security agencies and landscape maintenance firms that spoke to The Straits Times also had complaints.

Employers say that supporting the PWM makes them less competitive.

Some have even lost contracts to competitors who do not implement the PWM and undercut the bidding process with low prices.

Security firm Soverus lost its bid to renew seven of its existing contracts this year, despite absorbing about 2 percentage points of the 10 per cent minimum wage increase for security officers under the industry's PWM in its tender bids, said managing director Kelvin Goh.

"Clients want to pay the same amount, if not less, than their old rates," he added.

In some cases, service buyers engage in a "wage reset" when they sign a new contract with a service provider, said Security Association Singapore president Raj Joshua Thomas.

"The buyer says, OK, I'm going to change agency, but I want to employ the same security officers. Then, when the security officers move to a new agency, the new agency pays them an entry-level wage," said Mr Thomas, who is also a Nominated MP.

"And many of these officers are willing to do it, because they want to remain at the same site because it's near their house."

Mr Thomas said this is how some security agencies keep their tender bids competitive: "It is not good for the officer, but it's an issue that is very hard to address."

The only way the PWM can be sustainable is if service buyers and consumers change their mindset about the work provided by low-wage staff and be willing to pay more, said Mr Felix Swee, executive director of cleaning firm Sun City Maintenance.

"If we increase the PWM wages, then buyers need to pay more too. Singaporeans need to accept this, because it is a cycle," he said.

Regulation to ensure that all parties - service buyers and service providers - play their part in implementing the PWM would also help, said Mr Swee.

Higher costs are often cited as one of the biggest challenges in raising pay for low-wage workers.

But a poll commissioned by ST last June showed that Singaporeans are willing to pay more.

It found that 80 per cent of a representative sample across age, gender and income groups said they were willing to pay up to 10 or 20 per cent more for essential services such as cleaning or security if the extra amount goes to the workers themselves.

In the last nine years, the PWM has become a key tool used by the Government to lift low-wage workers, together with the Workfare scheme, which supplements the income of low-wage workers with payouts.

The expansion of the PWM to more sectors presents an opportunity to be more ambitious with its wage upgrading plans, beyond just keeping pay in step with national increases, said Dr Theseira.

Instead, Singapore could approach the issue from the perspective of determining how much a full-time worker requires in wages to support a family "without an unusual amount of public assistance", he added.

"Right now, I think we don't even have a good sense of what we hope to achieve in the end with the PWM, and my hope is that we can articulate a clearer vision."

*  Progressive Wage Model to cover local lift and escalator maintenance workers from 2022
Some 1,300 Singaporeans and PRs will benefit when the scheme kicks in next year
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 16 Jul 2021

Local escalator maintenance workers will be covered under the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) from 2022, along with those maintaining lifts.

Both groups of workers must also receive an annual bonus of at least one month of basic wages from January 2023, under recommendations submitted by a tripartite committee and accepted by the Government on Friday (July 16).

The committee, led by National Trades Union Congress assistant director-general Zainal Sapari, also recommended annual minimum wages for lift and escalator maintenance workers in 2023 until 2028.

This will ensure that at the lowest job level, a lift and escalator maintenance worker will earn at least $2,075 a month in basic wages in 2023 - a 12 per cent jump or $225 increase from the minimum wage for 2022.

After including overtime and other wage components, the same worker may earn about $2,700 in gross monthly wages, said the committee.

The changes will benefit an estimated 1,300 Singaporeans and permanent residents who are working as technicians in the industry, of whom about 44 per cent are above 50 years old.

There are about 3,050 technicians in the industry, with about 1,750 being foreigners.

These workers service about 70,000 lifts and 7,000 escalators in Singapore.

The PWM for lift maintenance workers was introduced in 2018 on a voluntary basis, and was set to be made compulsory in 2022.

It is a wage ladder that sets out the minimum basic wages an employer must pay, based on the worker's skills. The PWM is already mandatory in the cleaning, security and landscape maintenance industries, covering around 85,000 low-wage workers.

Mr Zainal told the media on Friday that demand for lift and escalator maintenance is expected to increase in the coming years as more high-rise buildings are being built and as more emphasis is being placed on ensuring accessibility.

"The industry must be able to meet this higher demand with a strong and skilled lift and escalator workforce. Thus, we believe the recommendations... are very timely," he said.

Speaking to the media after a visit to JTC Summit in Jurong East, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said he hopes that the PWM will attract more graduates from the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education to join the industry.

"In the next few years, you will see a significant ramp-up in terms of basic wages and the industry will provide meaningful careers, especially today with a greater adoption of technology such as artificial intelligence, analytics and sensors," he added.

In its report, the tripartite committee noted that with about half of the current local lift and escalator maintenance workforce expected to retire within the next decade, attracting younger workers into the industry is key to overcoming a potential severe manpower shortage.

Setting the PWM wages for 2023 to 2028 will lay out a clear career path and wage progression for prospective workers, while the introduction of an annual bonus will help retain workers, said the committee.

"Workers will also be more motivated to stay longer with the same employer when there are more training and upgrading opportunities," it added.

"Employers will, in turn, be more incentivised to train their workers when there are better retention rates."

The committee also urged the Government to consider providing transitional wage support to enable the industry to lower its labour costs if service buyers are unwilling to renegotiate existing contracts to take into account the higher wages.

It also called for the Government to defer any further adjustments to the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC), or the proportion of foreign workers a firm can employ, during the pandemic as the industry has been affected by the limited inflow of such workers.

In response, Mr Zaqy said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will review the requests from the committee.

On providing transitionary wage support, he said: "We understand that the market is a bit soft and the economy is impacted, so especially when you expand PWM to more sectors, we will have to review how we can help employers absorb (the higher wages) and adopt PWM holistically and in the short term as well."

He added that MOM regularly reviews the DRC and will take into account the economic conditions before making any adjustments.

On the part of service providers, the committee called for firms to reward their workers if they improve their skills, and to also seek out training subsidies and grants to upskill their workers.

Service buyers should also support lift and escalator maintenance companies on this front, and adopt more technology-enabled solutions, said the committee.

Mr Tony Khoo, representative for the Singapore National Employers Federation and co-chair of the tripartite committee, said that in the short term, employers of lift and escalator maintenance workers are concerned about how the wage increases under the PWM will lead to price increases in maintenance fees.

"But in the long term, we are more concerned about how the industry is able to attract talent to replace the ageing workforce, to raise the quality of service, and also to improve the efficiency of workers," said Mr Khoo, who is also chief executive of estate and property management company EM Services.

Mr James Lee, president of the Singapore Lift and Escalators Contractors and Manufacturers Association, said lift and escalator maintenance work requires a certain degree of physical fitness.

"Hence, I hope that service buyers will recognise and reward them for the value of services that they provide accordingly," said Mr Lee, who is also head of Hitachi's building systems business unit for Asia.

**  Landscape workers to see annual wages rise by 6.3% a year over 6 years under Progressive Wage Model
The increases, from 2023, are more than double the 3% hikes recommended in 2018
By Jolene Ang, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2021

Landscape maintenance workers will see their minimum basic wages rise by 6.3 per cent a year on average, over six years, after proposals by a tripartite committee on the landscape industry wage ladder were accepted by the Government yesterday.

The wage increases, over six years from July 1, 2023, will benefit more than 3,000 Singaporean and permanent resident landscape workers across 358 companies.

These increases are also more than double the 3 per cent annual wage increases previously recommended in 2018 under the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the industry that were subject to review.

This means a landscape worker who currently earns a base wage of $1,550 would see this increase to $1,650 next July, after a $100 pay hike announced in 2018. With the latest increases, the same worker's base wage will rise to $1,750 in 2023 and reach $2,385 in 2028.

The PWM is a ladder that sets out minimum pay and training requirements for workers at different skill levels.

It is part of efforts to ensure that the wages of Singapore workers increase along with the skills, productivity and job responsibilities of employees in their sector.

The new set of wage increases was among further recommendations made by the Tripartite Cluster for Landscape Industry (TCL), which comprises representatives from the Government, unions, as well as landscape maintenance service providers and buyers.

The wage schedule will be further reviewed in 2025.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad told the media via a Web conference after a visit to Gardens by the Bay yesterday that there is a "new message" that comes with the revisions to the wage increases that are more than double what was recommended previously.

"We want to say that the service buyers and consumers have also got a role to play," he said.

The TCL noted that besides pushing for higher wages and narrowing the income disparity between landscape workers and other workers, the aim is for Singaporeans to recognise the landscape industry as an important service sector.

Service buyers should recognise the value of workers so their wages can be commensurate with their skills, while end users and consumers such as parkgoers should also acknowledge the work that goes into maintaining lush greenery, it said.

Mr Zaqy said the earlier editions of the PWM were learning points, "a means for us to understand how it works".

"Employers needed time as well to see how this impacts the business... In every sector, you can see how the different PWMs are now coming out," he said.

Adopting the PWM has been a compulsory condition for landscape companies to be included in the Landscape Company Register since 2016.

Mr Zaqy noted that in other sectors that have implemented the PWM, such as cleaning and security, the proportion of local workers increased when wages went up. "They saw prospects and career progression," he said.

An earlier recommendation the Government accepted in January was to introduce a specialist track under the PWM career ladder as part of efforts to professionalise the sector and attract new and younger entrants.

Two new roles - landscape specialist and senior landscape specialist - were introduced.

Yesterday, the TCL said these two new roles would be available from 2023. Students who graduate with the necessary qualifications can take up such roles.

A third recommendation to enhance mandatory training requirements across all landscape roles from July 1, 2023, was also accepted by the Government.

Each role will require three mandatory Workforce Skills Qualifications modules for progression under the PWM.

National Trades Union Congress deputy secretary-general Chee Hong Tat said the model's approach is not just about raising wages. "If we do this as part of a package of measures... you raise wages, but you also raise productivity and the skills of workers."

The Ministry of Manpower and National Parks Board said in a joint statement yesterday: "Together, our whole-of-society efforts will uplift our lower-wage workers."

*** Security officers to see annual wages rise by 6.6% on average from 2022 to 2028 under Progressive Wage Model
By Jolene Ang, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2021

Private security officers will see their wages go up annually over six years, after proposals put forth by a tripartite committee on the security wage ladder were accepted by the Government on Friday (Nov 12).

This will benefit about 40,000 security employees across 265 agencies in Singapore.

At the other end, senior security supervisors will see their monthly wage increase from $2,240 to $4,430 over the same period.

Overall, the monthly gross wage across all job levels will rise at an average compound annual rate of 6.6 per cent from 2022 to 2028, under the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for Singaporean and permanent resident workers.

This is more than twice the minimum 3 per cent annual increase announced in November 2017 under a previous set of recommendations.

The monthly gross wage is estimated based on a basic wage and 72 overtime hours.

The 3 per cent increase to baseline wages will still come into effect next year, but the Security Tripartite Cluster (STC) recommended a "significant increase" to the security officers' monthly wages in 2023 as well as a fixed dollar quantum annual increment from 2024 to 2028.

The PWM for the private security industry was first announced by the STC in October 2014.

It has been implemented as a licensing condition for private security agencies since September 2016.

The STC said one of the aims of the latest review to the PWM is to address the manpower crunch faced by the private security industry.

NTUC assistant director-general Zainal Sapari, who chairs the STC, said this shortage has been "a perennial problem".

"This is partly due to the fact that many service buyers are still relying on headcount-based contracts. This is exacerbated further by the fact that during this Covid-19 period, there are safe management measures by clients, which the security agencies need to support.

"Coupled with new buildings coming up, there is a shortage of security officers," he said.

The latest recommendations can address some of the challenges faced by the industry, Mr Zainal added.

The STC also noted the need for sustainable wage growth without excessive working hours.

It recommended that from 2024 onwards, PWM baseline wages for security officers should include wages paid for work done in addition to the industry's 44-hour regular work week.

As an added measure to safeguard the security officers' welfare under the new wage schedule, it also recommended that a maximum cap of 72 hours a month in extra hours be set above the 44-hour work week.

Mr Raj Joshua Thomas, president of the Security Association Singapore, said it is difficult for the industry to attract and retain talent when "officers are working 12-hour shifts six days a week at relatively low wages".

"So the industry and security buyers must bite the bullet. And there is an urgency to it. We shouldn't look at security officers as a cheap resource," said Mr Thomas.

But service buyers can temper this extra cost by reducing headcount and installing technology, as well as engage consultants to get advice on how to deploy scarce manpower and technology effectively, he added.

"All this requires a mindset change amongst buyers and security agencies to embrace a very different security industry of the future," Mr Thomas said.

The STC is also intensifying efforts to raise industry standards and improve the productivity of security officers through technology adoption and skills upgrading.

It called for service providers to invest in technology and explore job redesign or other ways to improve productivity and service outcomes.

Security agencies can make use of available programmes and resources, such as the Productivity Solutions Grant, or approach the Union of Security Employees and security trade associations if they need help driving transformation efforts, the STC noted.

Meanwhile, those in the security workforce should embrace upskilling and adopt a positive mindset towards learning new skills and work processes, it added.

At the same time, service buyers should adopt outcome-based contracting and progressive procurement practices, rather than headcount-based contracting.

Members of the public, too, should be civic-minded and "respect our front-line security officers who are carrying out their duties to safeguard everyone's interests", the STC urged.

The Ministry of Manpower and Ministry of Home Affairs said in a joint statement on Friday that the recommendations are timely and will augment tripartite efforts to uplift lower-wage workers and transform the security industry.

"Government agencies will work closely with tripartite partners to implement the recommendations and create more meaningful careers for security officers, increase productivity, and improve security outcomes in a sustainable manner," they said.


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