SINGAPORE: From April 2020, unionised companies and partners of the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) that apply for the Enterprise Development Grant will receive an additional 10 per cent of funding support from the labour movement, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Wednesday (May 1).
However, to be eligible for this, they will have to form a company training committee and “commit themselves to other positive worker outcomes” such as raising salaries of low-wage workers, or reskilling.
Mr Heng made the announcement during his keynote address at this year’s May Day Rally, where he was speaking to more than 1,600 guests comprising union leaders and tripartite partners. This was Mr Heng’s first speech as Deputy Prime Minister.
With the increase, the companies will receive a total of 80 per cent in funding support under the Enterprise Development Grant.
First announced in Budget 2018, the grant allows local enterprises looking to build deeper capabilities, scale up and internationalise. The grant currently provides funding for up to 70 per cent of qualifying project costs, such as consultancy fees, software and equipment and internal manpower costs.
“It is important for companies to see workers as key partners in their companies’ transformation, and to make sure their transformation efforts benefit workers,” said Mr Heng.
Last month, NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng had announced that NTUC will work with companies to form training committees, which will plan and implement programmes to help workers keep pace with new technology.
It hopes to form these committees in 1,000 companies over the next three years, and benefit around 330,000 workers.
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Describing the scheme as "farsighted" and a "game-changer", Mr Heng noted that lifelong learning and reskilling will take on new meaning.
The labour movement, he said, will be embedded in companies to help workers and employers alike, and will take training beyond “broad-based, national strategies” to the company level.
“All too often, workers and companies might not be clear about their skills training needs, he explained. “Unions can apply their deep knowledge of the workplace and factory floor to identify the right courses, customise training, and help workers develop relevant skills for particular jobs.”
Mr Heng added that the relationship between companies and workers is “mutually reinforcing”, as more competitive companies can provide better jobs and pay for workers, while highly skilled workers can make companies stronger and more productive.
“Unions are well-positioned to strengthen both,” he said.
In his speech, Mr Heng also noted that these company training committees reflect how Singapore’s “unusual” labour movement has evolved over the years.
“The modernisation spirit has led unions to deepen their partnerships with employers to make sure training and skills upgrading directly benefits workers,” he said. “Elsewhere, this is left to the private sector or governments to initiate.”
“That is the remarkable capacity of our labour movement – to be the co-agents of economic and social transformation,” he added. “And this capacity is something we must continue to strengthen.”
Watch the full speech: