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NTUC 'fully supports' Government's efforts to further enhance protection for local workers: Chee Hong Tat

NTUC 'fully supports' Government's efforts to further enhance protection for local workers: Chee Hong Tat

Office workers in protective face masks at Singapore's Central Business District. (File photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's labour movement "fully supports" the Government's efforts to protect local workers from "global competition and economic disruption", NTUC deputy secretary-general Chee Hong Tat said on Sunday (Jul 11).

In a Facebook post, Mr Chee promised to strengthen support for Singaporeans in the workforce and to invest in the training and upskilling of local workers.

His comments came in the wake of ministerial statements last week by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on the importance of free trade agreements (FTAs) to Singapore's growth and economy. 

READ: Free trade agreements are critical to Singapore’s economic survival, says Ong Ye Kung

"We know that FTAs ... benefit our local workers," Mr Chee said. 

"Without foreign investment and foreign manpower, we would not have achieved the economic growth and prosperity that we have today, and Singaporean workers would be worse off," he added. 

"Our foreign complement enables us to grow quickly and create better job opportunities for Singaporeans. 

"When the economy is not doing well, foreign workers help to cushion the impact that will otherwise fall on Singaporeans alone," Mr Chee explained. 

He admitted that "there are genuine concerns with foreigners working and living in Singapore, and it is not always easy to persuade people why we cannot have more jobs for locals without some competition from foreigners". 

The trick is to "strike a realistic balance", he added. 

READ: FTAs don't give 'unfettered access' to Singapore's labour market; policies must benefit Singaporeans: Tan See Leng

Mr Chee noted that local workers had been "protected ... throughout the COVID-19 crisis and the worst recession in our history". 

Singapore's total employment fell by 166,600 in 2020 due to a decline of 181,500 in non-resident employment. But local employment grew in the same time period, by 14,900, Mr Chee said. 

He attributed this in part to the Government's "generous support schemes" and "safety nets" available, including the Workfare Income Supplement, Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, Jobs Support Scheme and Jobs Growth Incentive.

The Government also pays careful attention to managing the inflow of foreign workers, Mr Chee said. 

READ: Important for political parties to achieve common ground on the fundamentals vital to Singapore: Ong Ye Kung

He said the NTUC would "continue to push ... (to) ensure fair consideration for Singaporeans when it comes to hiring and career progression" and to "look closely at all the various options to strengthen support for Singaporeans in the workforce", including anti-discrimination laws.

Source: CNA/vc(hs)

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