Extension of Jobs Support Scheme should be considered: Labour chief Ng Chee Meng

Extension of Jobs Support Scheme should be considered: Labour chief Ng Chee Meng

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng tells CNA he has established enough credit with employer federations over the past five years to ensure a strong relationship moving ahead. He also talks about the Eagle Services Asia retrenchment saga, which could have led to the first strike in Singapore since 1986. Chloe Choo with the story.

SINGAPORE: The Government should consider extending the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) beyond August given the weak economy, said National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general Ng Chee Meng on Monday (Aug 3).

The wage subsidy scheme is set to expire after covering salaries in August, with payouts disbursed in October.

“What I suggest for the Government to really think about - if there is a company that’s impacted by policy measures, perhaps we can think about extending JSS,” said Mr Ng in an interview with CNA.

"The economy must be reopened with a balanced risk management between the health risks and the long-term economic impact on Singapore.”

Analysts have said that the Government should extend the JSS to prevent further unemployment and business closures, with a more targeted approach suggested.

READ: Targeted extension of Jobs Support Scheme would help cope with COVID-19 losses: Analysts

READ: Commentary: More government measures needed to cushion a worsening Singapore jobs market

EAGLE SERVICES ASIA RETRENCHMENT PLAN

On the recent effort by aerospace firm Eagle Services Asia to retrench workers, Mr Ng said the company had not followed due process in letting go of its workers, which was why he authorised the unions to take legal industrial action.

It would have been the first legal strike in Singapore since 1986, but it was averted after an agreement was reached.

READ: Unions halt 'unfair' retrenchment by aerospace firm, industrial action averted

“Eagle Services was forthcoming in terms of the overall retrenchment package. It wasn't unfair in the overall facilitation of what the workers will get. But the process was unfair and there's a lack of transparency to say which worker will be let go, so the whole process was done in a very haphazard manner. To the extent that when union leaders were in the midst of discussion, workers were already being let go,” said Mr Ng.

“It broke a fundamental issue of trust. Workers that are 30 years or more in a company, were given very last minute notice to pack up. The dignity of the workers was not respected and the due process of determining who may be the worker to let go, was not done properly.”

Local workers had made up 44 per cent of the final list of layoffs by Eagle Services Asia. This in contrast to the original 56 per cent, before union intervention.

READ: Singapore in technical recession after GDP shrinks 41.2% in Q2 from preceding quarter due to COVID-19

FEEDBACK TO GOVERNMENT WILL BE "JUST AS DIRECT"

Although he is no longer a Cabinet minister following the Jul 10 General Election, Mr Ng, who remains labour chief, said NTUC’s “feedback to Government would remain just as direct”.

“I will still have the same access to my former Cabinet colleagues to tell them what is the ground situation, give them honest feedback and see how government policies can match with business contacts and balance it out with workers interest. It's a very fine delicate balance across different industries,” Mr Ng said.

He added that he remains committed to strengthening the tripartite relationship between the Government, businesses and unions.

READ: National Wages Council to reconvene to update guidelines as COVID-19 hits labour market

“As a minister, maybe I will have more access to companies where they will treat me also as part of Government, and maybe discuss things in a broader context. But I think I have enough credit with our employer federations and have built trust over the last five years for them to know that our labour movement is one that creates a win, win, win possibility for country, businesses and workers,” he said.

“And if NTUC continues to operate in that context, then I think the tripartite relationship will continue to flourish, very honest and very direct discussions, to deal with the hard issues."

Source: CNA/aa(gs)

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