NWC: 150,000 earn less than $1,300?

Office workers walk through the central business district during lunch break.PHOTO: BLOOMBERGOffice workers walk through the central business district during lunch break.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

What’s the point of the NWC recommendations when so many low-wage workers don’t get them?

I refer to the article “National Wages Council recommends monthly wage hikes of $50-$70 for workers earning up to $1,300” (Straits Times, May 31).

It states that “It recommended that those earning a basic salary of up to $1,300 a month should get built-in increments of between $50 and $70.

This will cover 24,000 more workers than in 2017, when the NWC recommended that those earning up to $1,200 should get pay hikes of $45 to $60.”

As to “In all, some 150,000 full-time workers will come under the new basic salary threshold” – don’t you find it sad and rather alarming that we have so many full-time workers who earn less than $1,300?

With regard to “In issuing its annual wage guidelines, the council also proposed – for the first time – that companies that achieved productivity improvements last year should give their low-wage workers a special bonus of between $300 and $600.

This could be paid out in a lump sum or over several payments, it said” – what’s the point of the NWC recommendations when according to the article “Fewer low-wage workers received pay rises in 2016” (Straits Times, Feb 9)  – “About 60 per cent of companies with workers earning a basic monthly pay of $1,100 and below said that they did not give, or did not intend to give, these employees wage increases last year. In 2015, only 53.5 per cent of companies had said the same.

About half the profitable companies which did better last year than in 2015 granted pay rises. But this proportion plunged to just over a quarter among loss-making companies.

The National Wages Council’s wage guidelines for 2016-2017 had recommended a built-in monthly pay rise of $50 to $65 – opting for a range instead of a fixed sum like in past years. About 21 per cent of companies gave their low-wage workers salary increases of at least $50, up from the 18.5 per cent in 2015 who stuck to that year’s guideline of a hike of least $60.

The NWC, labour movement and the Government have all failed miserably in protecting low-wage workers.

Year after year, we see the statistics that so many companies, including those which are profitable – not giving the increments to low-wage workers.

Only about 21 per cent of companies gave their low-wage workers salary increases of at least $50 (as recommended).

13.1 per cent of low-wage workers had a wage cut, 11.9 per cent had no pay increase at all, and a whopping 54 per cent had wage increases of less than the recommended $50.

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.