Proposed tiered-wage model to up cleaners' pay

Amendment to law will lead to tiered pay system; security sector next in line

All 55,000 local cleaners in Singapore will earn at least $1,000 each month from September, up from $850 now.

In a bold move, the government is introducing an amendment to the law in Parliament this month which, when passed and implemented, will in effect set a tiered wage system for different jobs in the cleaning sector.

A full-time indoor cleaner will earn at least $1,000 a month.

Those who are trained to handle cleaning machines will earn at least $1,400, and a supervisor, $1,600 - all salary levels which are negotiated with employers and unions.

This move to boost cleaners' pay is a "targeted approach, not a national minimum wage", emphasised Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

"We are not setting wages by political decree."

Instead, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, which regulates the cleaning sector, will amend the law this month to introduce a new compulsory licensing scheme for cleaning companies.

Cleaning firms must have a licence to operate, and a key requirement of the licence is that they use a "progressive wage model" to pay their workers. The model sets a wage ladder, where workers in low-wage jobs can earn higher pay through training.

The licensing condition itself will not spell out the salaries on the ladder, explained Mr Tharman.

Instead, a committee of government officials, unionists and employers will negotiate the salaries.

Cleaning companies that do not follow the wage guidelines will be punished for not complying with the licensing requirements, including having their licences revoked, the Deputy Prime Minister warned.

Customers who hire cleaning firms without licences will also be punished.

A similar model will be introduced in the security sector, added Mr Tharman, without spelling out a time frame.

The latest move is the strongest attempt yet by the Government to raise persistently low salaries in the cleaning and security sectors. Industry players there have suppressed wages in order to submit price-competitive bids for new business.

Checks with town councils showed that the move will not affect them. "Town councils have already adopted the progressive wage model," said Mr Lim Biow Chuan, chairman of the Marine Parade Town Council.

But at least one buyer is worried about higher cleaning costs.

"I'm glad that they're trying to raise the wages of low-income workers, but we are concerned about how this will eventually affect contract prices," said a manager from a building management company, who did not want to be named.