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Progressive wage model ‘can help retain talent’

Labour movement aims to increase take-up rate of PWM to 70 per cent by end of next year.

SINGAPORE: The progressive wage model (PWM) should not be seen only as a way to help lift the wages in low-paying sectors; rather, it could also help in talent retention, said National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How on Thursday (July 31).

He cited the oil, petrochemical, energy and chemical sector where there is a manpower shortage despite the better-than-average pay on offer.

Noting that workers have concerns other than wages, Mr Heng said: “They do not look very kindly at the other aspects of this (job) ... Wage could be one factor, there could be other things. The demands of the job, the conditions of work, and all that. And people are constantly comparing to the alternatives that they have.”

And the PWM, which requires pegs wages to skills, productivity, and career development, will address this, added Mr Heng.

He was speaking at a seminar where the labour movement was pushing for wider adoption of the wage ladder model in the oil, petrochemical, energy and chemical sector - so far, only about 600 out of 44,000 workers in the industry have benefitted from the model.

Introduced in 2012, the PWM allows workers to pocket higher wages as they upgrade their skills and improve their productivity.

And because the PWM’s implementation started with low-wage sectors - such as cleaning and security - to prevent them from getting “stuck” with low productivity, wages and technology, Mr Heng said there is a misconception that the model is meant only for low-wage workers.

At the seminar yesterday, held at the Employment and Employability Institute, the labour movement said 30 per cent of unionised firms in the sector had adopted the wage ladder across all levels of workers. Its target is to raise the take-up rate to 70 per cent by the end of next year.

Mr K Karthikeyan, the Chairman of the NTUC cluster for this sector, said he believes jobs in the sector, with good salary and career opportunities, should remain for Singaporeans to maintain the Singaporean core.

Asked why uptake of the wage ladder was slow in the sector, Mr Karthikeyan said companies are reluctant to open up their in-house training sessions to other companies as they fear that competitors will copy the technologies behind their product, although relationships between companies have been slowly improving.

But NTUC has been working with firms to promote uptake of the PWM, he added.

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