Singapore seeks to attract more marine industry workers

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Wages in Singapore's marine industry could be changed to help offshore marine companies attract and retain workers there.

The pay structure could be altered to give rank-and-file workers higher basic pay while lowering typically high variable bonuses, according to The (Asia) Business Times.

Lawrence Wong Lynn Kan, senior minister of state for information, communications and the arts, told the publication that the newly formed Marine Engineering Cluster within the National Trades Union Congress is re-examining the wage system in order to strengthen the Singaporean core of workers in the marine industry.

The Marine Engineering Cluster comprises four existing unions in the marine industry: Keppel Employees Union, Keppel FELS Employees' Union, Sembawang Shipyard Employees' Union and the Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Employees' Union.

Union workers in the marine industry usually receive 30 percent of their pay in bonuses. The Marine Engineering Cluster is urging that variable bonuses account for 20 percent of total pay, with basic pay and a monthly variable component making up 70 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Singapore's marine and offshore engineering cluster contributed $5.7 billion, or 11.8 percent, of the country's GDP in 2010.

Although the cluster is a valuable sector to Singapore, its work force is not being renewed because younger Singaporeans are turned off by the low basic pay, long working hours and demanding working environment.

At the same time, the wage overhaul could find resistance within the industry. The practice of paying higher variable bonuses has the merit of helping offshore and marine companies, which have high fixed costs, to survive during a severe downturn.

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