TL;DR – Is it really a thankless job?
Quick question – how many elevators are there in Singapore?
The answer is 67,000. (Also, if you are interested to know, there are 7,000 escalators in Singapore.)
Next question, how many lift and escalator technicians (LETs) do you think there are in Singapore?
Answer: 2,100. And about half of them are aged 50 years old and above.
Did you also know that Singapore residents (Singaporean and PR) comprises around half of the technicians in the industry? Given their age, half of them will be retiring in the next 10 years, hence hollowing out the industry’s capabilities.
This translates to about 1,100 additional technicians needed in the next 3 years based on the projected increase in the number of lifts and escalators and we need to be able to attract young Singaporeans to join the industry.
But why don’t Singaporeans want to join the industry?
Well, it’s no secret that being a lift technician is regarded as a “3D” job – it’s dirty, demanding and dangerous. Coupled with the unattractive salary (FYI the starting pay for LETs’ can be as low as $1,300) and lack of clear progression and professional certification, it makes it very challenging for lift companies to attract more workers to become lift technicians.
There is hence an urgent need to transform the profession to one that is also “3D” but by this, we mean desirable, disciplined and dependable instead.
The Labour Movement thus decided to address three key areas – better wages, higher skills, and better working conditions with the introduction of a mandatory Progressive Wage Model since it has been implemented for cleaners, security officers and landscape technicians to much success.
This PWM is the result of numerous studies, discussions, and work with various government ministries and agencies to push guidelines and recommendations. NTUC spoke with industry players (lift companies) to get their buy-in and finally after 20 months of hard work (the Sectoral Tripartite Committee, or STC, was formed in Jan 2017), the necessary framework and recommendations were formally accepted by the Government on 19 September 2018.
One key task of the STC was to review the wages for lift technicians and to propose a competitive pay package to attract locals into the industry.
The aim of the PWM is to attract locals to join the lift industry and retain them through continual upgrading. It would also help prevent possible wage “reset” each time a service contract is renewed due to cheap outsourcing. The PWM covered four key areas: better jobs, higher skills, better remuneration and raising productivity.
The PWM serves to provide two progression pathways for lift technicians. The supervisory track offers opportunities to progress and build up management capabilities, while the specialist track caters to those who prefer to deepen their technical skillsets.
As part of the efforts to rebrand the lift sector and its job opportunities, the STC also recommends new job titles under the PWM to reflect the increasing complexities of the job and the multitude of competencies required. More crucially, the PWM recommends a significant increase (40 per cent!) in the basic starting pay of our lift technicians – from $1,300 to $1,850 for an assistant lift specialist while a trained lift specialist can expect to earn a minimum basic pay of $2,250.
Currently, there are no standardised minimum requirements for existing lift maintenance personnel at the rank-and-file level. Training is primarily conducted in-house by the lift companies, with no standardised curriculum across the industry.
To support the PWM, the STC recommended implementing a structured training and certification framework to professionalise the workforce and to ensure that both new entrants and existing workers are equipped with the relevant key competencies.
Better Working Conditions
Lift technicians typically work under demanding working conditions as lift shafts and motor rooms are usually dark and stuffy places, and maintenance work is physically strenuous. Working hours are long and unpredictable due to emergency calls and the need to perform maintenance work during off-peak hours.
As such, the STC recommended a coordinated push to improve the work environment and conditions in the lift industry – raise lighting levels within the lift shafts, lower temperature within the lift shafts and the motor rooms, as well as raise adoption of technology to streamline work processes and improve productivity in lift maintenance.
“These recommendations bring us one step closer to a more competent, technically advanced and sustainable industry, which will play a significant role in ensuring that our lifts and escalators continue to be safe and reliable for everyone,” says L&E STC Co-chairman Chin Chi Leong.
After all, to quote NTUC’s Assistant Secretary-General Melvin Yong, who is also the Executive Secretary of the United Workers of Electronics & Electrical Industries (UWEEI),
“Our lift technicians do an important job every day (and often nights) to facilitate our vertical transportation, and they are proud of what they do. We should be proud of them too!”
(Cover image via)