SINGAPORE: Singapore could implement a universal minimum wage with S$1,300 as a base, even as it explores sectoral improvements under the Government's "minimum wage plus" approach, said Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh on Monday (Oct 12).
This "parallel endeavour" – with the base wage subject to regular review – could be considered by the new Tripartite Workgroup on Lower Wage Workers, Mr Singh said in a Facebook post.
The term "minimum wage plus" has been used by Cabinet members including Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam to refer to Singapore's Progressive Wage Model (PWM), which aims to lift workers' wages as they upgrade their skills and improve productivity.
In Singapore, PWM is mandatory for the cleaning, security and landscape industries, but not for other sectors.
"The Government's minimum wage plus sectoral approach includes other aspects such as sectoral productivity and career progression, all of which cannot be objectionable," said the Workers' Party chief, who is also Member of Parliament for Aljunied.
"The problem with this sectoral approach towards minimum wage is that it takes too long (to) implement. It has been eight years, with three sectors covered.
"This is far too long for Singaporeans who work outside these sectors. How long are they to wait?" Mr Singh said.
The new tripartite workgroup, which was announced on Sunday, appeared to be sticking to the "minimum wage plus" sectoral approach to assist workers, Mr Singh said.
He referred to earlier Facebook posts made by Mrs Teo and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general Ng Chee Meng.
Mrs Teo said on Sunday wage growth had been supported by the PWM, "which sustainably raises wages of workers in some sectors in tandem with productivity".
"In sectors where PWM is mandatory, it is important to sustain continued wage growth. We want to expand PWM to cover more workers while protecting their employability," Mrs Teo said.
Separately, Mr Ng also said on Sunday that the new workgroup would allow NTUC to "push for the development of mandatory PWMs in more sectors".
"The workgroup would also allow tripartite partners to study other approaches towards uplifting the wages and well-being of low-wage workers such as through sectoral or occupational wage benchmarks for sectors where it is more difficult to implement the PWM," Mr Ng added.
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On Monday, Mr Singh said: "A universal minimum wage for the Singaporean worker is not just a moral imperative, it is an act of national solidarity, one that is even more relevant in today’s economic environment."
"I hope employers, businesses, unions and the Government consider this issue as one that goes far beyond dollars and cents, but as a fundamental basis of our national solidarity," he added.