SINGAPORE - Lower-wage workers with the National Environment Agency who were previously earning a daily-rated wage are now earning a monthly salary, said labour chief Ng Chee Meng on Saturday (May 1).
These workers will now be able to earn higher wages with better benefits following efforts by the labour movement, said Mr Ng in his May Day Rally speech.
The conversion of these workers from a daily-rated wage to a monthly salary was first mooted in 2018 by the late veteran trade unionist G. Muthukumarasamy, who was general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Daily Rated Workers.
Mr Muthukumarasamy, who was affectionately known as Brother Kumar to many, died in November 2019 at the age of 68.
The conversion of these workers is one of the first fruits of the labour movement's goal to ensure that lower-wage workers have more opportunities to earn higher wages and have better career progression, said Mr Ng, who is secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress.
To help this group of workers, NTUC will push for quicker expansion of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) in the food services and retail trade sectors, said Mr Ng.
The Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers was formed last October to study how to increase the wages of these workers and improve their well-being.
It is chaired by Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad and includes industry leaders from the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), union leaders and senior civil servants.
The work group is expected to give its recommendations by 2022.
"We have spent many an hour, engaging lower-wage workers, employers, the Government, to ensure workers' interests and needs are taken into account as we formulate the key... recommendations," said Mr Ng, adding that NTUC's long-term goal is for a universal PWM.
Beyond its traditional base of rank-and-file workers, NTUC will also seek to champion the interests of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) as well as freelancers and self-employed people, said the labour chief.
Noting that PMEs today form the largest proportion of Singapore's workforce, Mr Ng said NTUC is engaging these workers to understand their needs and concerns through the PME Taskforce helmed jointly with SNEF.
But more PMEs will need to join unions if they wish to be better represented, he added.
For example, the ST Engineering Staff Union (STESU) was recently set up from standalone unions and now represents rank-and-file workers to executives – a “major breakthrough”, said Mr Ng.
"What this means is that PMEs in a major company like ST Engineering will have a collective voice through STESU and NTUC," he added.
For those who are self-employed, NTUC will redouble its efforts to serve this group of "under-served" workers, said Mr Ng.
Last December, NTUC formed two associations to represent creative content professional freelancers and delivery riders.
The Visual, Audio, Creative Content Professionals Association (Singapore) represents around 1,000 creative professionals, while the National Delivery Champions Association covers some 2,000 delivery riders.