The labour movement has taken the lead to negotiate for better salaries for its outsourced contract cleaners, and stepped up its effort to push for improved wages for low-wage workers.

Following the recent recommendation by the National Wages Council (NWC) to give wage hikes of at least $60 to employees who draw basic monthly salaries of $1,000 or less, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Social Enterprises yesterday pledged its commitment to work with its service providers to build in pay increases of $60 for about 600 of its outsourced cleaners.

Already, NTUC Centre and AMK Hub - both owned by entities linked to the labour movement - have negotiated with their service providers to adopt NWC's recommendation for their pool of about 50 cleaners, starting next month.

This will be aided by the Special Employment Credit and the Wage Credit schemes introduced by the government in Budget 2011 and 2013 respectively. The Special Employment Credit scheme offsets 8 per cent of elderly Singaporean employees' gross pay; the Wage Credit scheme co-funds 40 per cent of wage increases for Singaporean employees earning gross salaries of up to $4,000, with the co-funding coming between this year and 2015.

The initiatives by NTUC were announced at the launch of the "I Care For My Cleaners" campaign at AMK Hub yesterday, where 60 cleaners were given a buffet dinner and gifts of appreciation.

Speaking in Mandarin, labour chief Lim Swee Say told the cleaners that NTUC wants service providers and buyers to work together to raise the pay of low-wage workers, and to regard it as their "shared responsibility".

He told them that the progressive wage model has been incorporated into the government's regulations for the cleaning sector, and that it will become a requisite for cleaning contractors when licensing for the industry kicks in next year.

Mr Lim, also a minister in the Prime Minister's Office, told reporters later that he expects the licensing requirement to start in the middle of next year.

He said: "Once we put in place this system, we believe that it will actually encourage other sectors to do likewise.

"We are starting with cleaners, but we are not stopping with cleaners. From here, we intend to go out to other low-wage sectors as well."

The "I Care For My Cleaners" drive will run till the end of this month, during which more than 100 organisations from the public and private sectors will find their own way to show their appreciation to more than 5,000 cleaners.