Workers’ Party (WP) MP Sylvia Lim posed several clarifications regarding Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) and government support measures to assist retrenched employees during the Resilience and Solidarity Budget Speech in Parliament on Monday (6 April).
While expressing her party’s support on the Resilience and Solidarity Budgets introduced by the Government, Ms Lim questioned that how the JSS will directly benefit workers as the wage offsets are provided to the employers with the aim of retaining their workers during this unprecedented period.
The JSS’s wage support will be provided to the employers to cover the nine-months of their local employee’s wages, with 75% for aviation and tourism related sectors, 50% support for food services and 25% for other sectors.
However, Ms Lim noted that many employers had already initiated their own cost management schemes by asking employees to take wages cuts before the Budget being introduced.
As the aviation sectors will receive 75% of wages support, Ms Lim questioned whether there is any obligation for employers to review their earlier No-Pay leave scheme given that their airline staff were asked to take No-Pay leave due to the airline lowered capacity.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the retail shops have also seen decline in business and the staff have been asked to work reduced hours and accept salary cuts.
Ms Lim said some retail shops workers in “non-essential services” have even been told by the employers that their job situation was not assured after the circuit-breaker policy was announced.
Thus, she asked for clarifications on the type of “abuse” by employer under the context of JSS, citing the government which said that it will not hesitate to take action against any abuse.
Noting that every sectors will fluctuate with the industry, Ms Lim also reiterated call for government to broaden the definitions of qualifying businesses in the various sectors under the context of JSS.
She said, “As an example, the industry for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) is listed in the Budget for enhanced wage support at 75%, but only for operators of purpose-built MICE venues.”
“However, it was pointed out in a Business Times article on 3 April, that contractors who provided MICE-specific products and services to those venues would only get the 25% base level wage support,” she added.
As such, Ms Lim suggested government to review these “anomalies” because all industry will similarly impacted by the crisis and situation will be more intense situation when circuit-breaker policy put in place.
Moving on, Ms Lim also sought clarification regarding the qualification of Temporary Relief Fund and the COVID-19 Support Grant, which have been introduced by government to assist retrenched and unemployed workers in coping their livelihoods.
It was noted that the applicants who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 are only eligible to apply for these two government support funds.
To this, Ms Lim probed that whether the applicant have to prove the causal connection between COVID-19 and the job loss or the application will be rejected if the applicant was retrenched during this period but was caused by company incurred losses before COVID-19 crisis.