Few non-unionised firms heed pay guide

PHOTO: Few non-unionised firms heed pay guide

A DAY before the National Wages Council (NWC) is due to release its guidelines, the labour movement has come out to say it is dissatisfied with the number of non-unionised firms that heeded last year's recommendations.

While some eight in 10 companies in the unionised sector followed NWC guidelines calling for low-wage workers to be given a $50 raise, only a small minority of non-unionised companies followed suit.

NTUC did not reveal the exact number, but a Straits Times check with 12 firms found that only four complied.

In Singapore, some three in four workers work in non-unionised firms.

"In these companies, there are no unions to push them," NTUC assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong told The Straits Times.

In May last year, NWC broke a 28-year run of issuing broad recommendations by calling on companies to give a minimum $50 pay hike to employees who earn less than $1,000 a month.

It is expected to announce a similar package today.

The council, which is made up of union leaders, employer groups and government officials, meets yearly to set wage guidelines that are closely watched by firms.

However, it has come under fire for not having enough clout to ensure that companies accept its recommendations.

Ms Cham said unions will do more this year to get more workers aware of NWC's wage guidelines.

For those employed by firms that are doing well but who did not receive pay hikes, she said: "In this tight labour market, they should just walk."

Of the dozen employers contacted by The Straits Times yesterday, four said they did not know of the guidelines.

Others said they wanted to hold off giving a raise because they were uncertain about business conditions.

Said Mr George Yeo, the operations director of security firm A Best Security Management: "It all depends on business demand and supply of workers."

One boss who did give employees a raise, Mr Paul Lim, the chief executive of security firm Soverus, said he did so because he felt the increase in pay would boost morale.

"When workers feel they are well taken care of, they will find it in their hearts to do their best," he said.

The president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, Mr Chan Chong Beng, found it hard to believe firms would have difficulty following the NWC guidelines.

"If the companies cannot even manage an increase of their employees' salary by $50, they are in trouble - there is a need for them to seriously review their business model," he said.



Additional reporting by Lester Wong

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