Share productivity gains more equitably with staff

SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek recently had his salary cut by nearly 20 per cent ("SMRT cuts pay of chief executive"; Sunday).

While this seems like a gigantic amount, Mr Kuek still received a total remuneration of $1.87 million, with a basic salary of $830,955 that works out to approximately $69,000 a month.

SMRT has said that its CEO's pay is benchmarked against those of CEOs in peer companies, and that it is competitive and at a responsible level.

Being an open and global city, Singapore adopts employment practices that are exposed to global compensation trends.

We pay globally competitive packages to attract the very best to contribute to our economic growth.

Noticeably, our listed companies pay top dollar to their CEOs and senior executives. Their lieutenants also get high compensation.

But the high pay usually stops at a certain level.

Then, there are low-wage workers, whose salaries are also benchmarked against those of their foreign peers.

However, as these foreign workers come from developing countries, they do not demand high wages, and a race to the bottom occurs.

In the end, we need the Government to step in and urge pay rises for low-wage workers.

Some societies turn to minimum wage legislation, but this option is not practical in Singapore.

Perhaps the only option is to ensure that employers share their productivity gains more equitably with all their employees, and not just head honchos.

Perhaps the remuneration committees of locally listed companies can be tasked to look into this employment practice.

Ee Teck Siew

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Share productivity gains more equitably with staff'. Print Edition | Subscribe