NTUC looks to expand progressive wage model to more sectors

It is also in informal discussions on a new approach to the model

Middle-income workers in certain industries could have a structured wage progression set out if the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) succeeds in its push to expand the progressive wage model (PWM) to more sectors.

Labour chief Ng Chee Meng said yesterday that NTUC is in discussions with employers in strata management, solar technology and pest management on how to implement the model, which sets out minimum pay and training requirements for workers at different skill levels.

It is also in informal discussions on a new approach to the model - setting out salary and skill ladders for individual vocations, said Mr Ng, during a virtual media briefing to lay out the labour movement's priorities for the year.

The occupations that could be covered include clerks, general machine operators and electricians, which have a common nature across industries, he said.

Mr Ng would not be drawn into providing further details but said the informal discussions are with some tripartite partners, and he hopes to make some progress within the next three to five years.

"There is, of course, still quite a lot of debate in society, even in Parliament, about progressive wage and minimum wage. While these debates can continue, NTUC will focus on action and focus on implementing PWM across more sectors, in two different ways - faster implementation and wider implementation," Mr Ng said.

This comes after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in the Budget speech on Tuesday that the Government's aspiration is for every sector of the economy to have some form of progressive wages.

The PWM, set out by NTUC in 2012, is mandatory in the cleaning, landscaping and security sectors, covering some 80,000 workers. It will become mandatory for the lift and escalator maintenance sector next year.

The Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers, which is chaired by Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad and involves representatives from employers, unions and the Government, is studying how the PWM can be extended to more sectors.

Mr Ng, NTUC's secretary-general, said the labour movement hopes recommendations for PWMs in food services and retail trade will be released this year and implemented within two to three years. This could benefit about 70,000 workers.

A PWM for the waste management sector, which could benefit up to 3,000 workers, is also in the works, after being mooted by NTUC last year.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.