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Providing care and support to workers in COVID-19 time

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The economic downturn is blasting through our midst. Thankfully, Singapore has the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) Job Security Council.

Despite the council being set up only in February this year, over 9000 companies have come on as partners and aided over 30,000 displaced workers.

Protecting low wage workers

NTUC Job Security Council’s main concern is vulnerable workers with low-wage jobs.

This is the most admirable focus thus far. The lowest rung of our society needs to be protected and it’s heartening that the heart of the Singapore job market is shining the focus on them.

Besides the vulnerable, NTUC is also here to protect the unfairly retrenched and ensure the employability of us.

The strong support from the government through the Jobs Support Scheme has thus far shielded many workers from the worse economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, given the severity of the crisis, retrenchment is unavoidable.

Retrenchment, said NTUC chief Mr Ng Chee Meng, must be done in a fair and dignified way, hence the proposal of a Fair Retrenchment Framework to regulate retrenchment.

As we grapple with the adversity dealt with by COVID-19, there is some comfort in knowing that there is an organisation we can fall back on in these hard times. The resolution of Eagle Services Asia and the unions of last month is a prime example of the protection National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) offers all of us.

Among other things, the Fair Retrenchment framework includes protecting the Singaporean core of the workforce, while foreigners with special or critical skills could be retained as well.

On top of providing the necessary structure to help employers and employees strike a balance, NTUC has also been exercising its network to assist workers with relevant training. NTUC is mobilising its network to support the Government in creating new jobs and traineeships for young and old Singaporeans.

The strong tripartite relationship between unions, employers and government is what sees Singapore through each crisis.

A weak labour movement cannot represent workers properly. It cannot get a fair deal from employers, cannot protect workers. What is bad for workers is bad for Singapore.

On the other hand, a strong labour movement but hostile, antagonistic and focused only on short-term interests of their members will hold back the country, and eventually, workers will get hurt.

A strong labour movement with strong support from workers, with a seat at the table, working closely and constructively with the government and employers working constructively to get the best deal for workers and find win-win solutions to all and advance national interests.

As fraught as we are with the current stress, I am assured that we have effective organisations with our interests at their heart.

 

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