By Ethan Lou
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is targeting to raise the wages of 10,000 cleaners to at least $1,000 a month by 2015, said NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say yesterday.
Mr Lim, who is Member of Parliament for East Coast GRC and also a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, added that the target will serve as a start.
"There's no reason to say that a cleaner's job is worth only $1,000 a month...We don't want to have any ceilings. Every time we achieve a target, we will move to the next target," he said.
The initiative will operate under the existing Inclusive Growth Programme and the Best Sourcing Initiative, said Mr Lim.
He was speaking at a cleaning- industry briefing held at the Employment and Employability Institute in Redhill. It was attended by about 100 people, including cleaning-company owners and managers.
Through skills upgrading and productivity improvements, Mr Lim hopes to eventually ensure that all cleaners here earn more than $1,000 a month.
Currently, 49 per cent of the 69,000 cleaners in Singapore work in schools and offices; 12 per cent work in hawker centres and public areas; and 39 per cent do specialised cleaning, such as in clean rooms. Most of them earn under $1,000 a month.
Under Mr Lim's wage outline, hawker-centre and publicspace cleaners should be paid $1,000 a month; town-council cleaners should be paid $1,200 a month; and cleaners operating machinery should get up to $1,500 a month.
Mr Lim also announced NTUC's plan to pay for half the cost of selected productivity-enhancing cleaning equipment purchased by companies.
The condition: Companies have to pass on gains in productivity to their workers in the form of higher wages.
He also spoke against instituting a minimum-wage policy, reiterating his stance in April against economist Lim Chong Yah's proposal to raise the wages of the lowest-income earners by 50 per cent over three years.
Raising incomes artificially through a minimum-wage policy will cause incomes to stagnate as there will be no incentive for the employer to raise salaries beyond the minimum, said Mr Lim.
Instead, he proposed a "progressive wage" policy, where an increase in wages is driven by improvements in productivity.
That way, the income of low-wage earners can keep on rising, said Mr Lim. He also expressed hope in boosting productivity for another 100,000 low-wage workers by 2015.
"We believe that every job can be strengthened, (and) can be improved," said Mr Lim.
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