While workers have been protected from the worst economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic due to financial aid from the Government, there is still possibility of more retrenchments and difficult days ahead, said labour chief Ng Chee Meng.
While speaking at his National Day message on Monday (3 August), Mr Ng said that the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is prepared to help workers during this testing times by protecting every worker, preserving jobs for all, and offering care and support to those who need it.
“This year has been a year like no other. We are amidst great change and upheaval. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted Singapore and many countries economically and socially. The health risks are still at our doorstep,” said Mr Ng, who is NTUC’s secretary-general.
“Although the Government’s substantial financial aid has shielded us from the very worst economic effects at the onset of the pandemic, we must be prepared for retrenchments, cutbacks, and more difficult days ahead,” he added.
If that’s not all, Mr Ng also expressed his thanks to front-line workers, given that they have selflessly put others ahead of themselves to protect communities and keep Singapore going.
To explain further on preserving jobs, he stated that NTUC is in talks with companies to keep jobs of employees by exploring all cost-cutting options.
“I trust that both unions and employers will approach these exercises with transparency and in mutual good faith,” said Mr Ng.
Additionally, the secretary-general of NTUC encouraged businesses to consider seconding employees to sectors that are still hiring. This is so the workers are still employed and the businesses can preserve their own manpower capabilities.
As for employers who are in industries that can still train workers, they can tap into the enhanced Union Training Assistance Programme and the NETF (NTUC-Education and Training Fund) Collaborative Fund.
For cases in which retrenchment is not avoidable, Mr Ng stressed that the priority is to make sure the companies treat workers fairly with dignity, based on the Fair Retrenchment Framework that NTUC proposed in July.
One of the things that is part of the framework is protecting the Singaporean core of the workforce, while foreigners with special or critical skills can be retained as well.
Mr Ng pointed out that unions, along with NTUC’s Job Security Council and Employment and Employability Institute, will do everything in their power to match affected workers to jobs and make sure they get the right training required for them to take on new jobs.
Separately, he also mentioned about unfair retrenchment exercise in a Facebook post last week, in which he revealed that three unions were permitted to go on strike, if needed, to stop aircraft maintenance firm Eagle Service Asia from going ahead with its plan of retrenching more than 140 workers unilaterally.
Thankfully, the retrenchment plans was not carried out after the company fixed its retrenchment process and reached an amicable agreement with the unions.
On top of that, Mr Ng said in his message that NTUC is deploying its network to support the Government in coming up with new jobs and traineeships for young and old Singaporeans.
NTUC will push for digital transformation and innovations in its union, membership and training models. This is so it can represent workers properly and be relevant to them, he noted.
Mr Ng went on to say that this comes as COVID-19 has led to global uncertainties and significantly changed the way working and business is done.
He also requested employers and Government to continue working with the labour movement “in the spirit of shared responsibility and common understanding, to ensure that we pull through this crisis together”.
“Now, more than ever, Singaporeans must unite. NTUC promises to work together with you to emerge stronger and build a Singapore that we can be proud to call home,” Mr Ng concluded.