Minimum pay rise on the cards for low-wage staff

Low-wage workers could be set for another round of pay hikes this year.

The National Wages Council (NWC) is expected to announce next week a recommendation to give them a minimum pay rise.

Its recommendation is being considered by the Government and, if accepted, will kick in from July 1.

This continues a push started by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in 2012 to lift the salaries of low-wage employees.

That year, the NTUC lobbied for a $50 pay increase for workers earning a basic monthly salary of up to $1,000.

The NWC backed the move which the Government subsequently accepted.

It was the first time in nearly 30 years that the council specified a minimum dollar amount to increase workers' pay.

The council continued in the same vein for three more years, raising the minimum built-in pay increase to $60 in 2013 - a recommended increase in 2014 and 2015 as well - and the salary bar to $1,100 last year.

When wage talks started in March, unionists continued to push for a minimum "quantitative" pay hike for low-wage workers similar to the levels in previous years, said a source.

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing yesterday declined to comment on NTUC's position in the wage talks.

"I will give my comment when the recommendations are announced," said the NTUC secretary-general, adding that it would take place next week.

The 18-member NWC is made up of a chairman, six NTUC unionists, six representatives from employer groups and five public-sector officials.

It has not revealed how big the latest hike will be.

But even if the Government accepts its recommendation, it is not binding.

Only about six in 10 private-sector employers gave low-wage workers earning up to $1,000 the minimum pay hike of $60 in 2014, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say told Parliament in January.

David Leong, managing director of human resource firm People Worldwide Consulting, said the minimum wage hikes have improved the lives of low-wage workers.

But he warned that the increases cannot become "an annual routine".

"It will be harder to get employers' buy-in when the economy is down and workers are being retrenched."

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