Work pass privileges suspended for two S’pore employers found to have underpaid retail staff

Lower-wage retail employees have been covered under the Progressive Wage Model since September 2022. - ST

SINGAPORE: Two errant employers who persistently underpaid retail employees, despite several rounds of engagement by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), will not get to apply for or renew work passes for foreign workers until they rectify the underpayments.

Both employers operate retail shops and were found to have underpaid a total of 12 retail employees by about S$450 a month per person since April 2023, the ministry said in a June 6 statement.

They were among 4,100 retail and food services companies the ministry inspected from April 2023 to March 2024.

The inspections were carried out after a six-month run-in period following the introduction of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for each sector.

Lower-wage retail employees have been covered under the PWM, a wage ladder pegged to training and productivity improvements, since September 2022, and since March 2023 for food services.

MOM said the six-month run-in period given to each sector or occupation the PWM was introduced to was to give employers time to adjust to the new requirements.

MOM noted that this has since ended for all the seven sectors and two occupations the model now covers, which account for 155,000 lower-wage workers.

The ministry said the inspections in the retail and food services companies were carried out because a significant number of local full-time workers – 87,000 in total – were covered under the PWM in the sectors.

MOM said: “Most employers inspected are compliant with the PWM requirements.

“Some were not familiar with PWM requirements and were initially not compliant but rectified the wages after MOM explained the requirements.”

The ministry said it will continue to conduct checks on PWM compliance across sectors through workplace inspections and audits that require employers to furnish employment documents for checks.

It will also work with the labour movement and employers, as well as public agencies that oversee PWM sectors, to educate and help employers meet their PWM requirements, paying workers their rightful wages.

The public agencies are the Building and Construction Authority, National Environment Agency, National Parks Board and Singapore Police Force.

The PWM first kicked in for the cleaning sector in September 2014 before being extended to the security and landscaping sectors in 2016.

The lift and escalator maintenance sector followed in May 2019, before the retail sector.

The model was also extended to in-house cleaning, security and landscaping workers in September 2022.

Since then, companies have also had to pay local workers at least a local qualifying salary before they were allowed to hire foreign workers.

This salary is now pegged at a gross monthly $1,400 for full-time workers and at least $9 an hour for part-time workers.

It will increase to $1,600 a month for full-time local workers and $10.50 an hour for part-time local workers come July 1, 2024.

Other than the food services sectors, progressive wages were also extended to administrators and drivers in March 2023, marking the first time progressive wages were accorded to occupations rather than sectors.

Subsequently, the model came into effect for the waste management sector, the latest to be included, in July 2023. - The Straits Times/ANN

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