The need for companies to boost the pay of low-wage workers by adopting the progressive wage model was highlighted by both the Manpower Ministry and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) yesterday in separate May Day messages.

"I urge employers to work with the unions to press on with progressive wages for their workers," said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

Echoing the call, SNEF president Stephen Lee noted that companies in the cleaning, security, landscaping and hospitality sectors have already adopted the progressive wage models.

"I strongly encourage employers to make concerted efforts to work with the labour movement to enhance the skills, employability and wages of our low-wage workers," he said.

The progressive wage model is an initiative by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to systematically boost the pay of low-skilled workers by training them to take up higher-paying jobs in the same sector.

The model, mooted by the labour movement last June, has been accepted and cited by the Government as a means to improve the lot of low-income Singaporeans, together with Government programmes like Workfare.

Besides adopting progressive wages, Mr Tan also called on companies to create more opportunities for seniors and back-to-work women.

He added that his ministry is studying employment practices in other countries, and promised that it will consult unions and companies on how to ensure locals "are given fair consideration at the workplace".

Giving an update on impending Employment Act changes, Mr Tan said unions and employers have "unanimously agreed" that workers deserve more protection - a goal to be achieved by the changes that will be tabled in Parliament this year.

He also reiterated the Government's priority of keeping unemployment low and working with unions and employers to create better jobs for workers.

In SNEF's message, Mr Lee contrasted the painful labour law reforms in other countries to the support given by Singapore unions, employers and the Government to amending the Employment Act.

He attributes the consensus reached to tripartism and "extensive consultations" but underlined the need for the labour market to "remain flexible and globally competitive so that we can attract investments... grow the economy and create good jobs".

He also reminded companies they cannot raise productivity on their own: "Whilemanagement plays a pivotal role in raising productivity, employers must also recognise that the support and cooperation of workers and unions are crucial."

These two May Day messages are the latest in a series of messages and speeches the NTUC has planned in the run-up to Labour Day tomorrow.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will release his May Day message today and speak at the May Day Rally tomorrow.