'Same job, so same pay for older worker'

SINGAPORE - The shortage of workers and battle for talent are forcing Singapore companies to maintain or even raise the pay of their older workers.

Also, it is not right to cut the pay of workers when they turn 62 if they continue in the same job, the companies told The Straits Times yesterday following a report that the public sector lags behind the private sector in the way they pay these workers.

On Sunday, the NTUC said its survey of 118 unionised companies in the private sector shows eight in 10 did not cut the pay of of their workers when re-employing them at age 62.

In contrast, public servants, when re-hired, faced pay cuts of up to 30 per cent.

Using the findings, the NTUC has renewed its push for re-employment terms in the public sector to be reviewed.

When asked yesterday whether it would review the pay formula for these older workers, the Public Service Division said it "has been reviewing" re-employment guidelines and its review "took into account" private sector practices.

"We expect to release the outcome of our review soon," its spokesman added in a statement, without elaborating.

Meanwhile, all the 10 small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) interviewed were opposed to reducing the pay of older workers.

The president of the Security Association of Singapore, Mr T. Mogan, said it was "unthinkable" for security companies to even consider cutting the pay of guards: "We are still in need of them. It is not as if there is a long queue of young people wanting to join the sector."

For training consultancy Absolute Kinetics, reducing the salary of an older worker who continues to do the same work sends a wrong signal, said its executive chairman, Mr Fang Koh Look.

"It tells the worker the firm does not value his work," he said, adding, "if I cut the pay of an older, experienced worker today, he will wonder, 'Why should I continue to work for you tomorrow?'"

While the SMEs declined to comment on public sector practices, some suggested it review its practice of cutting the pay of these workers automatically.

Said Mr Frederick Wong, chief executive of M-Luck International which provides housekeepers for hotels: "What matters more is whether a worker can continue to meet the requirements of the job, not his age."

NTUC yesterday declined to give more details, such as the size of the companies it surveyed and the sector to which they belong.

But for Heng Li Eating House owner Lim Kuong Kwok, the size or sector does not matter. "It comes down to how we treat our older workers.

"They are Singaporeans who are trying to earn a living too, so how can we cut their pay just because they turn 62?" he said in Mandarin.


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