Waste management sector one step closer to progressive wage model

The Progressive Wage Model has been implemented in three industries so far, with the waste management and recycling sector to follow. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The waste management and recycling sector is one step closer to having a progressive wage model (PWM) after a proposal was sent to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) recently to ask for the formation of a tripartite committee on the issue.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari, disclosing the development on Thursday (Oct 22), said NTUC had sent in the proposal after getting buy-in from the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS).

The labour movement is awaiting MOM's reply.

Mr Zainal was speaking at the sidelines of a visit he made with NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng to waste management company Wah and Hua Pte Ltd in Kranji Crescent.

Mr Zainal and Mr Ng said they could not give a date for when the PWM would be implemented for the waste management and recycling sector, as the process takes time.

For instance, the tripartite committee would have to work with companies in the industry to come up with the skills ladder and also work with the statutory boards to find suitable ways for the model to be implemented, explained Mr Zainal.

Their comments on the PWM comes after the issue got an airing in Parliament last week as the Workers' Party pushed for a universal minimum wage of $1,300 and the Government cited figures to show that the PWM had helped lift the wages of 80,000 cleaners, security guards and landscape workers by 30 per cent in recent years.

The PWM has been implemented in the three industries since it was first mooted in 2012, with some like the WP raising questions about whether this speed of progress is too slow.

Asked about this on Thursday, Mr Ng said that in the long run, NTUC hopes to raise the wages of workers in different sectors not just through the PWM, but also by "looking at the total possibilities for workers".

Elaborating, he said that the PWM, working in concert with the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme, which tops up the wages of lower wage workers, has helped to improve the lot of workers, without employers having to solely bear the burden of raising wages.

With the Government stepping in to top up wages first with the WIS, employers can improve productivity so that the entire industry progresses and workers can be paid more, he said.

Mr Ng added that the way to help workers is to also help businesses, so that the solution is win-win for all parties.

Speaking in Mandarin, he said pushing for a higher wage without considering the realities of the industry would be akin to protecting the rice bowls of workers, but breaking the rice jars of employers.

If the higher pay is not sustainable for the industry, companies would close down and workers would be left without a job, he added.

"We must look at this issue in totality of PWM plus WIS. I would suggest that we take this view so that the welfare of the workers is not just about the issues that are talked about today," he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.