Higher wages and clear career pathways for 3,000 waste management workers

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad (centre) speaking to Mr Leon Lau (left), a sorter at the PLQ Mall waste sorting facility, on Jan 24, 2022. With them is Mr Fahmi Aliman, chairman of the Tripartite Cluster for Waste Management. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Come 2028, an entry-level waste management worker can expect his salary to double to $3,260, under a new Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the sector that is set to start from July next year, the tripartite cluster for waste management announced on Monday (Jan 24).

Such a worker earns about $1,600 to $1,800 now, said Ms Melissa Tan, chairman of the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore. She is part of the tripartite cluster, which comprises the National Trades Union Congress, employers and other stakeholders.

The salary increases will be implemented over a multi-year schedule from July 1 next year till June 30, 2029. 

A total of 3,000 waste management workers here will see annual wage increments, mandatory annual bonus and a career and skills progression ladder.

The workers will also get a stipulated minimum hourly overtime pay.

From Jan 2024, they will also receive an annual bonus of at least a month's pay if they have been with their employer for at least a year. This bonus does not depend on their work performance.

These recommendations were accepted by the Ministry of Manpower on Monday.

The ministry said these improvements are consistent with the guidance by the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers to ensure that such workers have meaningful and sustained wage growth to gain ground with the median worker.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said: "You will see about 50 per cent wage increase growth in the coming years... I think this is a good outcome between unions and employers.

"But at the same time, we want to see the sector transform in a meaningful and sustainable way."

When asked if this move will raise costs for consumers, he said that not every change in business cost translates to higher prices for consumers.

He added that transitional support for companies will be announced during the upcoming Budget.

The PWM provides a clear career progression pathway for workers to improve their wages. To do so, they must undergo structured training to upgrade their skills.

The model currently covers the security, cleaning, landscaping, and escalator and lift maintenance industries.

Under the PWM for the waste management industry, workers will get a clear career progression pathway from crew to supervisor in the waste collection sub-sector, for instance, and from sorter to waste sorting plant supervisor in materials recovery.

There will also be a minimum number of Workforce Skills Qualifications modules that workers have to take at each level.

With upgraded skills, the PWM will ensure that workers see increased pay over six years, to 2029. For instance, a waste collection crew member earning $2,210 next year when the PWM kicks off, will earn $2,420 from July 1, 2024, and $3,260 in 2028. This marks a compound annual growth rate of 8.1 per cent.

By 2028, a waste collection senior driver will be earning $3,960 - from $2,910 next year - while a supervisor will be earning $3,910, from $2,860.

Mr Fahmi Aliman, chairman of the Tripartite Cluster for Waste Management, said the workers in the sector deserve due recognition for their hard work.

"The committee has been working hard for the past year to come up with a PWM that will boost the wages and skills, as well as improve career progression opportunities of our waste management workers, and in time, attract more workers to the industry," he added.

Ms Tan said the sector is facing a manpower crunch, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as it relies heavily on foreign workers. 

“Singaporeans are not coming forward to join this industry because it is not deemed to provide glamorous jobs,” she said. 

Meanwhile, demand has risen for waste management services, especially with more packaging waste generated from e-commerce and food delivery. 

“I hope that the PWM will attract more Singaporeans to come on board to carry out such jobs with pride,” she added. 

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