Channel NewsAsia

Taskforce to look into wage guidelines underway

A tripartite taskforce will be set up soon to look into wage guidelines, said labour chief Lim Swee Say on Sunday.

SINGAPORE: A tripartite taskforce will be set up soon to look into wage guidelines, said labour chief Lim Swee Say on Sunday.

The taskforce, which will comprise employers as well as representatives from the trade unions and the government, will help shape the National Wages Council's (NWC) recommendations for the next three to five years.

Explaining the reason behind the setting up of the taskforce, Mr Lim shared that the NWC had to come to a compromise in coming up with this year's wage recommendations following disagreements among members of the tripartite body.

NWC is a tripartite body set up in 1972 to formulate wage guidelines to be in line with long-term economic growth.

The plight of low-wage workers has seen some improvement, with fewer employees now earning less than S$1,000 monthly.

According to the Ministry of Manpower, some 117,500 full-time resident employees earned an estimated basic monthly wage of S$1,000 and below in 2013 -- a decrease from 150,000 in 2012.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said this is due to recommendations by NWC.

This year, NWC recommended that workers earning less than S$1,000 a month should get a pay hike of at least S$60.

This follows its recommendations that those workers receive a minimum pay hike of S$50 in 2012 and S$60 in 2013.

But employers resisted the labour movement's proposal for the wage ceiling to be raised, said Mr Lim, secretary-general of the NTUC.

Employers cited reasons such as the current business climate and the tight labour market.

Mr Lim said: “We are quite comfortable with the S$60 (pay hike) -- because S$60 for S$1,000 means 6 per cent.

“What we are pushing for is whether the S$1,000 ceiling could be raised further to S$1,100, to S$1,200, in keeping with the increases within our median wage.

“The employers' federation, however, they are not comfortable, they feel that it's important that we adopt a longer term perspective instead of negotiating on a yearly basis."

The parties agreed to the formation of a taskforce to look into areas of concern.

Mr Lim said: "(Firstly,) how do we come up with a framework to guide the NWC in our future years of recommendations for low-wage workers.

“Secondly, how do we spread this whole mindset of productivity gains, skills upgrading in as many sectors as possible, in as many companies as possible, so that we don't have to be caught in this situation whereby wages have been going up but productivity has been lagging."

Mr Lim hopes that the recommendations by the taskforce will be ready for next year's NWC discussions.

He was speaking on the sidelines of an appreciation event on Sunday for taxi drivers who are among the pioneer generation.

Mr Lim joined some 150 National Taxi Association members as they were treated to a ride on the Singapore River Cruise to relive memories of the place.

The event is part of the labour movement's initiative to honour workers for their contributions. 

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia