31 Jan ST reports:
A new guidebook was introduced on Monday to give added impetus to the national drive to improve the stagnating pay of low-wage workers.
It is aimed at helping companies look beyond the lowest-price bid, or ‘cheap sourcing’, when awarding contracts for services such as cleaning and security.
But this move to get companies to practise ‘best sourcing’, which looks at whether the bidder is offering fair wages and employment terms to its workers, has been an uphill task.
Many companies say they do not know how to do it, prompting the tripartite partners, comprising the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the Government and the Singapore National Employers’ Federation (SNEF), to join forces and produce the free guide.
It includes checklists and scorecards for companies to evaluate the contract of bidders as well as ready-made clauses they can insert into contracts.
Mr Koh Juan Kiat, SNEF’s executive director, believes the ‘easy practical steps’ it offers will encourage businesses to adopt best sourcing.
The reason: Companies want consistent and high-quality service and to achieve it, they know workers have to be ‘properly treated and paid, motivated, and well trained’, he said.
Labour MP Zainal Sapari, director of NTUC’s Unit for Contract and Casual Workers, is particularly pleased with the advice to companies to ask how much the service provider is paying its workers if the bid price is much lower than that in the market.
‘We’ve encountered cases where the same cleaning workers are doing the job in a building but at a lower pay because they are now working for a new employer,’ said Mr Zainal.
Best sourcing as a practice to help low-wage workers earn more has been endorsed by the Government. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said as much at the opening of Parliament last October.
In 2010, the median wage of an industrial establishment cleaner was $572 a month, a sum that includes overtime payments and allowances. Office cleaners make slightly more, at $800 a month, and security guards, $1,367.
On Monday, the tripartite partners also issued a revised advisory to guide companies on outsourcing.
Its guidelines want companies to consider, among other things, if service providers give cash incentives to motivate workers to perform beyond expectations.
The new advisory follows feedback from a public consultation exercise led by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi last August. The feedback also led to the new guidebook.
A Manpower Ministry survey in late 2010 shows best sourcing practices, promoted since 2005, have yet to take root. The poll of over 1,000 establishments shows more than half adopted three out of the six practices in the advisory.
One employer that favours best sourcing is Resorts World Sentosa. ‘We make sure workers are paid a competitive wage. To us, their ability to respond in a friendly manner is as important as their ability to keep the place clean,’ said its senior vice-president of human resource and training Seah-Khoo Ee Boon.
Press Release Detail – Ministry of Manpower
Comment by MP Tan Chuan Jin :
Concerns for the lower wage earners are valid and this is one area we are focusing our efforts on. Like I said, this is one step. It is a helpful step but not the last. At the end of it, it’d have to be a range of differen…t measures that we put in place. Workfare remains part of that make-up and an important one in topping up the wages of this group.
If I may, do take take a look at the whole solution space, some of which we’d talk about more as other measures unfold.
Do understand that not everything is launched at the same time because other measures may be work in progress and not ready to be introduced. And to also look at the complete package of outreach to target the specific group.
This is a useful initiative and rather than wait till budget to announce, we would rather push it out sooner and get it going.