Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Bill – Speech by Chen Show Mao

(Delivered in Parliament on 2 October 2018)


This bill before us provides, among other things, for an enhancement to the progressive wage model as applied to workers in the cleaning sector. A licensed cleaning business will now be required to pay an annual bonus, on top of wages, to its cleaners. This will be mandatory for cleaners who are Singaporeans and PRs, and is encouraged for cleaners who are foreigners.

As you know, the Progressive Wage Model, developed by the tripartite committees, took effect beginning 2015 with the aim of uplifting low-wage workers in the cleaning, security and landscape sectors. In these sectors, wages had stagnated due to widespread cheap sourcing and due to the more limited scope for collective bargaining, as prices are locked in once service contracts are signed, which are typically for a long term. The Progressive Wage Model aims to secure for the workers a minimum starting wage, and also /increases in future wages in line with training and improvements in productivity and standards.

In this light, I welcome the provisions in this bill instituting an annual bonus for cleaners, which will carry a minimum amount to be specified by the Commissioner of Labour. Cleaners, like many other low-wage workers, often live from pay check to pay check and find it difficult to save for the future. Today’s bill takes a step in the right direction towards minimum wage protection for low-wage workers in the cleaning sector, consistent with helping businesses better attract and retain their workers in this sector. The fact that we are passing today enhancements to the Progressive Wage Model in the cleaning sector offers some cause for optimism that the wage model is taking root in the sector, it is adapting and growing and making progress.

Indeed, the Progressive Wage Model has very recently been extended to workers in a fourth sector: lift technicians. And there it has grown its own variant of a two-track-roadmap for the progression of more senior workers: as a supervisor or as a specialist technician. Short of a national minimum wage plan pegged to household expenditures on basic needs, I urge the government to take the lead in further adapting and extending its progressive wage model to cover more sectors of our economy, the better to support more low-wage workers, so that they have, along with a ladder ahead of them, a floor beneath. Thank you.