Rejection of pay hike request set off upskilling journey

Mr Ramli Mohd Hussin upskilled and earned promotions and wage increases, but believes he has room to grow.
Mr Ramli Mohd Hussin upskilled and earned promotions and wage increases, but believes he has room to grow.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY


Senior operations manager

$3,500 per month

Mr Ramli Mohd Hussin was 16 years old when he got his first job as a general toilet cleaner in 1988. He earned $380 a month.

He had dropped out of his basic course at the Vocational and Industrial Training Board, the then-equivalent of the Institute of Technical Education.

Over the years, he took various upskilling courses - some of his own accord and others under the Workforce Skills Qualifications system. Eventually, he took on roles as area supervisor and operations executive.

Today, he is a senior operations manager earning $3,500 per month - a feat he says would not have been possible without the implementation of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), along with his desire for self-improvement.

The PWM, a ladder that sets out minimum pay and training requirements for workers at different skill levels, was announced for the cleaning sector in 2012 and took effect in 2014.

Mr Ramli, 48, who is married with four children, said: "Now, cleaners can upskill and create good prospects for themselves."

The training requirements under the PWM have been a huge help, Mr Ramli said, especially for those new to the industry.

He explained: "When I mixed chemical cleaners, I thought that if I used a lot, the floor would be cleaner. I took courses to learn the proper dilution ratio - pouring too much could damage the floor."

Recalling his wage growth journey, Mr Ramli said he had thought his starting pay of $380 was a decent wage at the time as he did not have any family responsibilities.

"But as I grew older and the cost of living got higher, I started to feel (the pinch)," said Mr Ramli, who lived in a rental flat in Ang Mo Kio with his family for a time.

In 2004, he requested a pay increment that his boss rejected.

That marked a major turning point in his attitude. "I told myself, if I get better qualifications, people will pay me more and I can improve my life," he said.

He signed up for courses in leadership and people management and safety coordination, and even attained a diploma in management at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

These qualifications helped him secure promotions and corresponding wage increases along with the base wages stipulated by the PWM. In 2017, he bought a four-room flat with a bank loan.

"My current salary is average - not very high, but not low either. I have been successful in giving my family a roof over their heads. But I believe I still have room to grow."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2021, with the headline 'Rejection of pay hike request set off upskilling journey'. Subscribe