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More retrenched, shorter work weeks in 2015 due to slowing economy: NTUC

The National Trades Union Congress predicts that in the first quarter of 2016, 234 workers could be retrenched in unionised companies, up 31 per cent from the same period last year.

SINGAPORE: In the midst of a slowing economy, retrenchment figures in the unionised sector increased in 2015, said the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) on Friday (Jan 22).

At a media conference, NTUC said that a total of 2,512 workers from 45 unionised companies were displaced from their jobs last year, a 11.8 per cent increase from 2,246 workers in 2014.

The key reasons for retrenching workers that businesses cited were company restructuring, poor business and closure of operations, or the discontinuation of production lines.

NTUC predicted that in the first quarter of 2016, 234 workers could be retrenched in unionised companies, up 31 per cent from the same period last year.

This will be mostly from the manufacturing sector, according to NTUC.

The union also said that more companies have also cut down the number of hours worked by employees.

In 2015, 2,098 workers from nine companies went on shorter work weeks, 59 per cent more than the 1,323 workers from five companies in 2014. NTUC said the move is seen as a short-term measure to reduce costs in the wake of low business volume. 

LABOUR MARKET TO REMAIN TIGHT

At the media conference, the Labour Movement said it expects the labour market to remain tight in 2016. This is as more businesses will be impacted by related cyclical or structural challenges than before, and weaker sectors - such as marine engineering, speciality chemicals and printing - bear the brunt of these challenges.

According to NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Cham Hui Fong, the slowing growth of the economy and the tightening of the labour market are major concerns for NTUC, and it foresees that businesses and workers will continue to be affected by these factors.

"It is important to ensure that our workers are taken care of and are given fair opportunities to be trained and re-trained to remain relevant and adaptable," he said. 

WORKPLACE BENEFITS IN COLLECTIVE AGREEMENTS IMPROVING

Based on 900 active collective agreements (CAs), the Labour Movement said it continues to see a healthy proportion of unionised companies implementing good workplace benefits in 2015.

For instance, 6 per cent of CAs provided additional paternity leave on top of the one week Government-paid paternity leave, compared to none in 2014.

A total of 320 CAs also stipulated provisions for training or examination leave, offering an average of five days of leave a year to support workers on self-development courses that are relevant to their work and approved by the company, NTUC said.