SINGAPORE: The progressive wage model (PWM) for the landscape industry will be incorporated as a requirement in the Landscape Company Register (LCR) from end-June, announced the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Tripartite Cluster for the Landscape Industry (TCL) on Thursday (Mar 3).
From Jun 30, registered companies must ensure that their resident landscape maintenance workers are paid in line with or higher than wage levels specified in the PWM.
This will help raise the workers' income from around S$1,000 a month to at least S$1,300.
In addition, half of their resident workers must complete the required training under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) framework for Landscape. The other half must meet the PWM training requirements by June 2017.
Companies that do not comply with these requirements will not be able to obtain registration under the LCR. Companies already registered under the registry will lose their registration if they do comply.
Companies not registered will not be able to bid for Government landscape service tenders.
The LCR is a scheme that ascertains the credibility of landscape companies and promotes quality practices in the sector.
Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan meets a landscape worker employed by Swee Bee Contractor outside the National University of Singapore. (Photo: Calvin Hui)
"(The scheme) is a win-win outcome for both the companies and their workers," said Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan. "We strongly urge companies that have yet to send their workers for training to do so soon and take advantage of the flexible training delivery to meet the PWM requirements."
He added that firms can seek Government grants to help defray rising costs.
"Capital investment, no doubt, will create some initial barriers, but then the Government is keenly aware of this, and we provide a lot of grant schemes to help companies to defray the investment costs, so that they will be able to embark on this journey so as to raise their productivity with the acquisition of new and very highly effective machines," he said.
One landscape company said that the initiative is timely, as wages in the landscaping industry are low.
Mr Ivan Heng, director of Swee Bee Contractor, said: "If you look at the statistics of the low-wage workers, their salary has been stagnant for the past, I would say, five or 10 years."
NTUC's Assistant Secretary-General Zainal Sapari, who is also chairman of TCL, said the PWM will stop wages from being depressed in industries where work is being outsourced, such as the cleaning, landscape and security sectors.
To help contractors justify their upfront investments in technology, he encouraged service buyers to offer longer contracts.
Said Mr Zainal: "I would also like to encourage service buyers to consider the possibility of extending contracts on the longer duration. This would incentivise service providers to invest in technology, and the longer contract would enable them to recoup the investment that they have put in.
"Over the long term, I do expect cost to be stabilised, workers to be happier because of higher wages, and productivity to increase."
Mr Zainal added that it is very important for the Government to take the lead by coming out with procurement practices that ensure fair wages for workers employed by these firms.
He said: "Substantial amount of outsourced services are procured by the Government sector. We do believe any initiative taken by the Government could actually send a very strong signal to the market.
"For example, when the Government made the decision to increase the salary of cleaners under their contract, before the cleaning PWM was implemented, it impacted the salaries of the cleaners working in the private sector as well. This is probably due to the very tight labour market and cleaners have got a very high job mobility. They would resign and go to work at places which offer them better terms and conditions.
"With regard to the concern of a possible increase in cost, I would like to encourage service buyers to work closely with service providers to look at performance-based contracts, rather than a headcount-based one. Because they work closely with service providers, they might be able to mitigate any cost increase through the option of technology."
Mr Zainal said the PWM was introduced to "prevent wages from being depressed".
He noted: "The progressive wage model has been made mandatory in the cleaning, security and landscape sectors. We view the progressive wage model as a safety net to prevent wages from falling below a certain level should contracts be renewed, or new contracts are tendered upon.
"The progressive wage model can actually act as a level playing field for the service providers and service buyers, so that when they have to compete, it has to be on the basis of productivity, and not paying their workers low salaries.
"Under the progressive wage model, we have actually tied the salary to be paid to the workers to commensurate the skills and the productivity, and the responsibilities that they are shouldering. Service buyers engaging companies that are paying according to the progressive wage model could expect workers to be better trained and better skilled."
The PWM for the landscape industry was developed by the Tripartite Cluster for the Landscape Industry and launched in April 2015, and was aimed at providing a clear training and career progression path for resident workers. It is hoped that these workers can earn higher wages as they obtain better skills and become more productive.
An estimated 3,000 resident workers will benefit from the PWM.