Wage increases must be sustainable: NWC members

The office crowd in Central Business District.
The office crowd in Central Business District. PHOTO: ST FILE

Wage rises must be sustainable so that companies can remain competitive, members of the National Wages Council (NWC) said yesterday, in releasing the council's wage guidelines for the year ahead.

Businesses need to redesign jobs and innovate to stay competitive, and workers should also make full use of available support to refresh their skills, said council chairman Peter Seah.

"We must continue to press on with efforts to achieve higher productivity growth. This will ensure that real wage increases are in line with productivity growth over the long term," he said.

The council called for rises in monthly pay of $45 to $60 for workers earning a basic salary of up to $1,200 a month.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post yesterday that "the labour movement can play an important role in helping our businesses to transform and workers to deepen their skills, so as to achieve higher productivity and sustainable wage growth".


Unionists had tried to push for a higher quantum increase, but this had to be balanced with the need to get more employers on board.

Labour MP Melvin Yong, who is NTUC's director for tripartism and an NWC member this year, said the council took into account business conditions, labour market performance and productivity growth.

NWC called for implementing the Industry Transformation Maps, which set out strategies for businesses to seize growth opportunities. The plans include skills and wage ladders for various job scopes, said Mr Yong.

Unionists cheered the raising of the salary ceiling for the quantitative guidelines to $1,200, a move which will benefit 40,700 more local full-time employees.

"Past increments saw some low- wage workers already getting paid $1,200, and if the guidelines were based on last year's $1,100 threshold, those workers may get a smaller increment," said Mr Nasordin Mohd Hashim, president of the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union.

He also welcomed the NWC's recommendation that companies using outsourced services incorporate annual wage adjustments and the annual wage supplement for workers into new contracts.

Business groups such as the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry were supportive of the latest guidelines.

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee said that the flexibility of a range of suggested increments was useful, given that the current economic climate is soft and companies digitalising their business processes are still retraining their staff. "The new guidelines, being slightly more tempered, would allow employers to phase in wage increases from increases in performance or output from the workforce," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2017, with the headline 'Wage increases must be sustainable: NWC members'. Subscribe