Better pay for 2 more sectors: Plan

Labour MP Zainal Sapari

SINGAPORE - The security and landscape industries are next in line to have progressive wage models.

Labour MP Zainal Sapari said on Sunday at a seminar that the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is working to implement such a wage model for these two sectors.

Launched last year, the progressive wage model sets out a career ladder with pay standards for low-wage workers. It aims to boost salaries through upgrading skills and restructuring jobs.

The announcement follows reports that salaries for airport trolley handlers were nearly doubled from $580 to $1,000 last month. Low-wage health-care workers also saw a 10 per cent boost in salaries in the past year.

Mr Zainal, who is also the director of NTUC's Unit for Contract and Casual Workers, said a one-size-fits-all model may not work for the security industry.

"The industry is diverse. Different types of security officers require different skill sets," he said, adding that they are targeting unarmed guards.

But when asked, Security Association of Singapore president T. Mogan said that there is first a need to "untie the knot of manpower" before looking at wages. He said that there is a shortage of nearly 25,000 workers in the industry - one that will grow more acute if work shifts are shortened from 12 hours to eight in a move that the industry is currently exploring, and with more condominiums built.

Meanwhile, the landscape industry is "losing the Singaporean core", Mr Zainal said, emphasising the need to encourage locals to join the industry. Chairman of the Landscape Industry Association of Singapore John Tan agreed.

He said: "This has never been an industry where there is a ready flow of local people who want to work in it - it's a menial, back-breaking job.

"When was the last time you saw a Singaporean cutting grass on the streets?"

But he was worried that NTUC may get the wrong perception that money is the end solution.

He said: "People may be held back even with higher salaries due to the harsh working environment."

NTUC also released its findings from three focus group sessions held earlier this month on Sunday to identify the concerns of low-wage workers, while reassuring them that steps are being taken to address their anxieties.

Chief among the concerns are low salaries that fail to keep up with inflation, discrimination, lack of support from employers, lack of awareness of employment rights, and the inaccessibility of training opportunities.

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