9 evidence that Zainal Sapari is still the man for Low-wage workers…

“My deepest concerns are on the widening income gaps, that affects our workers in the lowest percentile of the economic pie.”

– Zainal Sapari


He’s been known to be the voice and champion for low-wage workers and their livelihood. NTUC Assistant Secretary General Zainal Sapari has once again stood up to speak for low-wage employees at his first speech at the start of the 13th Parliament.

In his speech, he raised 9 ways that, the government and employers should do to help the lower-wage workers improve their lives.

1. NTUC Social Enterprises’ help for low-wage workers

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“Through its Social Enterprises, NTUC helped Singaporean workers and their families stretch their dollars, made essential goods and services more easily available.”

In short: NTUC’s social enterprises bring good value for money for workers and their families. 

2. Mandating NWC recommendations for workers in 20th to 30th percentile

“Employers out there view NWC’s recommendations as merely guidelines. The dollar quantum wage increments should be made mandatory for employees in the 20th and 30th percentile, in terms of basic salary.”

In short: Raising the upper limit of the NWC recommendations and having it legislated, so that more low-wage workers can receive the wage increment.

3. Government to play a greater role

“The Government can play a greater role in encouraging their service providers with many low-wage workers to give Annual Increments (AI) and Annual Wage Supplement (AWS). “

In short: government can encourage their outsourced service providers to give Annual Increments (AI) and Annual Wage Supplement (AWS) to their low-wage workers.

4. Progressive Wage Model for more sectors

“The Government has shown strong support for the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) in the three low-wage sectors. Beyond these three sectors, the PWM should be introduced to other sectors to better the livelihoods of more low-wage workers.”

In short: PWM should be introduced beyond the current cleaning, security and landscape sectors to improve the lives of more low-wage workers.

5. Public Private Partnership (PPP)

“We… have been advocating best sourcing over the past decade. The nuances of this mechanism have allowed the stakeholders to take advantage of some loopholes. Eventually, this bad practice has ended up hurting the people who should be most protected… Therefore, we have to venture further into employing Public Private Partnership (PPP) model as another tool to address our widening income gaps, with greater emphasis of on the human resource practices of the partners from the private sectors.”

In short: Using PPP model as another tool to address widening incomes gaps. Previously, best sourcing had loopholes which ended up hurting the workers employed on contracts for services.

6. Improving Productivity

Productivity - Waiter drone


“Renewing our economy will entail restructuring to improve productivity. Productivity improvement is key in maintaining our competitiveness. It is also the major driver of sustainable real wage increases for our workers. “

In short: Improving productivity is important in maintaining competitiveness which will also drive sustainable real wage increases.

7. Gain sharing

“As raising productivity requires labour-management cooperation, teamwork and sustained efforts, companies must also adopt a more pro-active gain sharing mindset to ensure the workers will benefit from their share of productivity improvements.”

In short: Companies should proactively share with workers, the gains received from productivity improvements.

8. Continuous training & skills upgrading

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“This will demand that both companies and employees invest in continuous training and skills upgrading to ensure that the workforce remains competent; relevant to the changing needs of the industry and resilient at all times.”

In short: Companies and workers should invest in continuous training and skills upgrading to remain competent, relevant and resilient.

9. Reinvent, Rethink, Redesign

“The Tripartite partners must champion new approaches to improve productivity by reinventing business processes, rethinking creative use of robots and machines and redesign deployment of manpower. “

In short: Tripartite partners should improve productivity through reinventing business processes, rethinking creative use of robots and machines and redesign deployment of manpower. 

Zainal Sapari

Indeed, if there’s any man in Parliament who will stand up to the welfare of the low-wage workers, it is Zainal Sapari.

“We must take bolder steps to address the widening income gap and at the same time ensure sustainability of our efforts and their outcomes.” 

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