It was reported in the media today that the service sector unionists met up with President Halimah and told her about their worries with regard to job security in the face of global uncertainty, impending economic downturn and restructuring of the industry (‘Service-sector unions tell President of job fears amid headwinds‘, 9 Oct).
They met the President at the Istana for a closed-door dialogue yesterday (8 Oct). Labour Chief and Minister in Prime Minister’s Office, Ng Chee Meng, was also present in the meeting.
However, the President said she was confident the unionists would be able to handle the potential difficulties.
“Our unionists have had the experience of going through such a downturn and recession,” she said.
She mentioned that the unionists have gained experience helping and supporting workers during the 2009 global financial crisis.
“So it’s not as if you’re coming in completely new, without any experience in dealing with downturns and how to support workers,” she added.
President Halimah also said that Singapore government has made “tremendous” efforts to improve the skills of workers, citing the SkillsFuture initiative and programmes by Workforce Singapore like its Adapt and Grow initiative.
“These are programmes and skills that will support and help the workers, in the event of a downturn and they’re faced with retrenchment and have to look for alternative employment.”
She added that past experience has shown that the unions are strong enough to support workers and their families in a downturn.
Despite the government’s efforts to improve the skills of workers like initiating the SkillsFuture initiative and programmes, many workers who couldn’t get a job after searching for a long time are increasingly resorting to driving Grab and taxi so as to make ends meet.
Shaun Ow, 39, was working in the private sector for some 11 years in various industries before he was retrenched 4-5 years ago. He then tried to find a job for more than a year before giving up. He ended up driving Grab to feed his family.
He told the media that he has been a private hire car driver for the last three-and-a-half years and manages to earn about $5,000 a month after accounting for all the charges. But he has to work very hard, driving everyday for 12 to 14 hours non-stop. On average, he would be making 20 to 25 trips daily and hardly has any time for his family.
“Passengers sometimes think our job is easy – sitting in an air-conditioned environment is easy. But I always tell them: You find one weekend, have two one-hour breaks for lunch and dinner, and sit in a comfortable sofa for 12 hours just watching TV. You will feel sore backs, sore shoulders, sore necks, sore everywhere,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government continues to issue work passes to foreigners to work in Singapore.