FOR years during his tenure as National Wages Council (NWC) chairman, Professor Lim Pin worried about the welfare of low-wage workers.
But it was not until 2012 that the NWC pushed for employers to give a fixed increment of $50 to those with a basic monthly pay of up to $1,000 instead of the usual percentage-based increase.
It was the first time in nearly three decades that the council had spelt out a pay rise, and it continued to push for a minimum $60 increase for low-wage workers in 2013 and last year.
Prof Lim said he took so long to act because timing was an issue, with the economy going through starts and stops for the better part of the past decade.
"I always felt uncomfortable about recommending a percentage salary increase for workers with a very low salary. It is really nothing for them," he said.
"We persuaded employers that the $50, what you call 'cash upfront', in addition to your percentage salary increases, is more meaningful.
His efforts in protecting the interests of workers and spurring Singapore's economic growth were recognised when he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the labour movement last night.
The 79-year-old said that being in a position to help poor Singaporeans get a leg up motivated him throughout his tenure as NWC chairman from 2001 to last year.
Prof Lim said he is honoured to be recognised for his efforts.
"The NWC works in the background. Nobody is going to pat you on the back and say you helped Singapore's economy grow," he said.
"But the work has been meaningful. That was what kept me going."
This article was first published on April 30, 2015.
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