Progressive Wage Model to cover lift and escalator workers

Some 1,300 Singaporeans and PRs will benefit when the scheme kicks in next year

The Progressive Wage Model will ensure that a worker at the lowest job level will earn at least $2,075 a month in basic wages in 2023 - up 12 per cent or $225 from the minimum wage for 2022.
The Progressive Wage Model will ensure that a worker at the lowest job level will earn at least $2,075 a month in basic wages in 2023 - up 12 per cent or $225 from the minimum wage for 2022. ST FILE PHOTO

Things are looking up for workers who service escalators and lifts with the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) kicking in with higher pay from next year.

They must also receive an annual bonus of at least one month of basic wages from January 2023 under recommendations from a tripartite committee and accepted by the Government yesterday.

The committee, led by National Trades Union Congress assistant director-general Zainal Sapari, also recommended annual minimum wages for these workers in 2023 and until 2028.

This will ensure that a worker on the lowest job level will earn at least $2,075 a month in basic wages in 2023 - up 12 per cent or $225 from the minimum wage for 2022.

Overtime and other wage components could push that worker's gross monthly pay to about $2,700, said the committee.

The changes will benefit an estimated 1,300 Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) working as technicians in the industry. About 44 per cent are over 50 years old.

There are around 3,000 technicians in the sector - about 1,750 are foreigners - servicing 70,000 lifts and 7,000 escalators.

The PWM, which was introduced in 2012, is a wage ladder that sets out the minimum monthly salary for local low-wage workers based on their skills and training.

It is already mandatory in the cleaning, security and landscape maintenance sectors, covering around 85,000 employees.

The PWM for lift and escalator maintenance workers was introduced in 2018 on a voluntary basis and set to be compulsory in 2022.

Mr Zainal said yesterday that demand for such maintenance is expected to increase as more high-rise buildings are built and more emphasis is placed on ensuring accessibility.

"The industry must be able to meet this higher demand... thus, we believe the recommendations... are very timely," he said.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad hopes the PWM will attract more graduates from the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education to join the industry.

"In the next few years, you will see a significant ramp-up in terms of basic wages and the industry will provide meaningful careers, especially today with a greater adoption of technology such as artificial intelligence, analytics and sensors," said Mr Zaqy, who was speaking after a visit to JTC Summit in Jurong East.

The tripartite committee's report noted that about half of the current local lift and escalator maintenance workforce are expected to retire within the next decade so wooing younger workers is key to overcoming a potential labour shortage.

Setting the PWM wages for 2023 to 2028 will lay out a clear career path and wage progression for prospective workers, while the introduction of an annual bonus will help retain staff, it said.

"Workers will also be more motivated to stay longer with the same employer when there are more training and upgrading opportunities. Employers will, in turn, be more incentivised to train workers when there are better retention rates."

The committee also urged the Government to consider providing transitional wage support to enable the industry to lower labour costs if service buyers are unwilling to renegotiate existing contracts to take into account the higher wages.

It also called for the Government to defer any further adjustments to the Dependency Ratio Ceiling, or the proportion of foreign workers a firm can employ, during the pandemic as the industry has been hit by the limited inflow of staff.

Mr Zaqy said the Ministry of Manpower will review the requests.

The committee also urged firms to reward workers if they improve their skills and to seek out training subsidies and grants to upskill staff.

Service buyers should also support maintenance companies on this front and adopt more technology-enabled solutions, it added.

Mr Tony Khoo, representative for the Singapore National Employers Federation and co-chair of the tripartite committee, said that in the short term, employers of maintenance workers are concerned about how the wage increases under the PWM will lead to higher maintenance fees.

"But in the long term, we are more concerned about how the industry is able to attract talent to replace the ageing workforce, to raise the quality of service and also to improve the efficiency of workers," said Mr Khoo, who is also chief executive of estate and property management company EM Services.

Mr James Lee, president of the Singapore Lift and Escalators Contractors and Manufacturers Association, said lift and escalator maintenance work requires physical fitness.

"Hence, I hope that service buyers will recognise and reward them for the value of services that they provide accordingly."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2021, with the headline Progressive Wage Model to cover lift and escalator workers. Subscribe