It’s now easier to spot firms that support better pay for lower-wage workers

More than 1,900 employers have received the mark since applications opened in December 2022. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE – Consumers and businesses can now more easily spot companies that support better wages for lower-wage workers to buy goods and services from, by looking out for the Progressive Wage (PW) Mark.

The two-tier accreditation scheme was officially launched on Wednesday at an event held at Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo’s local flagship store at Orchard Central.

Recommended by the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers in August 2021, the mark is administered by the Singapore Business Federation on behalf of the three-way partnership between the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation.

A company that adheres to the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for all eligible workers and pays the rest of its local workforce the local qualifying salary – currently $1,400 in gross monthly salary for full-time workers and $9 in gross hourly salary for part-timers – qualifies for the basic PW Mark.

The PWM is a wage ladder with pay rises pegged to training and productivity.

As at Jan 9, more than 1,900 employers have received the mark since applications opened in December 2022.

Thirteen of them were awarded the PW Mark Plus, a higher tier of accreditation for those that additionally adopt the tripartite standard on advancing the well-being of lower-wage workers.

This standard outlines progressive practices in workplace safety and health, training and career development, and staff welfare, such as providing a rest area.

About 76,000 companies – representing more than half the number of firms in the Republic – are eligible for the mark.

Those keen to apply for the PW Mark can do so through the GoBusiness online government portal.

“Upon approval of accreditation, employers will be able to download a digital certificate that can be used to profile their companies to consumers,” the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Wednesday.

Companies awarded contracts under new government tenders called from March 1, 2023, will need to be accredited for the duration of the contract period.

This requirement will be extended to quotations for the Government from March 2024.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, who is Senior Minister of State for Manpower, was present at the launch event.

He told reporters that the mark builds on ongoing efforts to expand the PWM’s coverage to more sectors and occupations, and mandate companies that employ any foreign workers to pay all local workers the prevailing local qualifying salary.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad (centre) with (from left) Uniqlo Orchard general manager Atsushi Suzuki, NTUC U SME and Women & Family Unit’s Yeo Wan Ling, Uniqlo Singapore operations director Yusuke Kuroda and SNEF honorary treasurer Tan Hwee Bin at the launch on Jan 18, 2023. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Collectively, the moves are set to benefit about 94 per cent of Singapore’s lower-wage workers, he said.

Mr Zaqy added that a recent MOM survey found that seven in 10 Singaporeans are likely to purchase goods and services from a PW Mark-accredited company over one that is not. “I am quite pleased to know that the support from Singaporeans has been unwavering despite current inflation and cost-of-living concerns.”

Asked if the PWM can be extended beyond lower-wage workers to include technical roles such as plumbers, as mooted by labour chief Ng Chee Meng on Jan 9, Mr Zaqy said the Government’s focus in the short term is to ensure that the current set of progressive wage changes is implemented well.

But he added: “We are going to study this (suggestion) because these are important jobs, essential jobs, that we also want to have Singaporeans in... So, it is a question of pacing, of how much the businesses can take up because there is a lot that has been loaded to industry at this point.”

Uniqlo, a PW Mark-accredited firm, raised the salaries of its lower-wage workers by 24 per cent in June 2022, before the PWM even kicked in for the retail sector last September, to help defray increasing living costs and attract talent.

With this, a sales associate earns at least $2,200 a month, $350 more than the wage requirement stipulated under the PWM currently, noted Ms Juliana Tan, Uniqlo’s Singapore human resources director.

The company employs about 500 full-time lower-wage workers benefiting from the PWM, Ms Tan said, adding that the firm hopes to attain the PW Mark Plus by the second quarter of 2023.

Staff serving customers at the Uniqlo Flagship Store Orchard Central on Jan 18, 2023. Uniqlo, which raised the salaries of its lower-wage workers by 24 per cent in June 2022, is a PW Mark-accredited firm. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

“When we have employees who are happy and interested working in Uniqlo, that will translate into how they can provide excellent customer service, which will naturally boost sales to a certain extent.”

The company’s efforts struck a chord with store supervisor Gina Lim, 29, who has worked there for four years and intends to stay for at least a decade. “The most attractive thing is that... they are very clear on career development – how long it will take for your development, how long training will take – so your progression is up to yourself.”

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