SINGAPORE: More than 7,000 workers who were either furloughed or retrenched due to the COVID-19 pandemic have taken up new roles with the help of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) through its Job Security Council.
Announced in February, the Job Security Council involves a network of unions, companies and organisations. The aim is to allow employers to share or redeploy manpower, matching displaced or retrenched workers to new jobs.
In a media release on Wednesday (May 27), NTUC said the more than 7,000 workers were placed mainly in logistics, medical technology, security, as well as healthcare-related sectors.
One of the companies involved is Seagate Technology. The data storage company took in workers from an aerospace company with the help of the council.
About 4,000 workers were deployed to the labour movement's supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice, as it faces higher demand for groceries during this period.
Apart from helping to transfer workers - whether to short-term or permanent positions - the council is also helping to improve the business models of companies that have been hit by COVID-19, said NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng.
Citing the example of airport ground-handling firm and in-flight catering provider SATS, Mr Ng noted that the company’s business was badly affected after travel restrictions were put in place.
NTUC helped to restructure its business, he said, getting SATS to start catering for workers in the migrant worker dormitories, as well as to explore possibilities of selling to customers directly.
Mr Ng said that with the formation of the National Jobs Council - announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his fourth Budget on Tuesday - he hopes that NTUC’s Job Security Council can “plug into an even larger network to match workers”.
He was unable to elaborate on how the union will work with the newly formed jobs council led by senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, saying that Wednesday afternoon would the first time the council meets.
But he added that NTUC will be a “partner in implementation”.
“If you look at the (grants the) government is putting on the table versus what employers are able to tap on … actually there’s a gap,” said Mr Ng, who is also a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
“We understand the (intentions of the) government grants,” he said. “We also know which are the programmes and grants that may be suitable for different companies. So in that conversation, we do the implementation role to benefit the tripartite partners.”
HELPING VULNERABLE WORKERS, JOB SEEKERS
In its media release, NTUC noted that certain groups of employees have become more vulnerable in the current employment landscape, such as mid-career professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), as well as mature workers and female workers.
For those who have to take care of young children and seniors at home now that some childcare and eldercare services have been disrupted by COVID-19 restrictions, NTUC said it will work with companies to offer more flexible work arrangements to the employees.
For example, it will encourage firms to relook their workers’ key performance indicators and base them on milestones or outcomes instead.
As for older workers, NTUC may help to negotiate in terms of wages or having shorter work weeks so that companies will hold on to this group of employees, Mr Ng said.
NTUC has also lobbied the Government for more financial support for workers who have lost their jobs or part of their income, said the labour movement.
The COVID-19 Support Grant covers those who have lost their jobs, are placed on no-pay leave, or who have lost at least 30 per cent of their salaries due to the coronavirus situation.
Eligible Singaporeans will receive S$800 a month for three months if they also commit to receiving employment and training support.
READ: Fortitude Budget: Additional S$800 million set aside for COVID-19 Support Grant; S$100 one-off utilities credit
Freelancers will receive significantly more financial assistance under SIRS, in which they are given S$9,000 in total over three quarterly payouts.
The labour movement also said that more can be done to increase payouts and the Workfare Training Support for workers in the lower income percentiles.