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NTUC to push for unemployment benefits, address workplace discrimination for PMEs

NTUC to push for unemployment benefits, address workplace discrimination for PMEs

The morning rush hour saw fewer office workers than usual at Raffles Place MRT station on Monday (May 17), the second day of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: The National Trade Unions Congress (NTUC) will push for unemployment support and benefits for PMEs who are unemployed not by choice, said assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay on Thursday (Aug 26).

This is especially for mature PMEs as they take a longer time to return to the workforce and usually have heavier financial commitments, he said.

Such support is one of four areas NTUC will focus on in recommendations that the task force is due to submit in the last quarter of the year.

The other three areas are: To address workplace discrimination particularly for nationality and ageism; ensuring more hiring opportunities for mature PMEs and supporting PMEs with skills upgrading.

Mr Tay co-chairs a joint NTUC-SNEF (Singapore National Employers Federation) PME Taskforce which had consulted more than 9,000 Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs) aged between 20 to 60 years old on their key concerns and needs at the workplace.

Two main areas of concern emerged from the engagements with PMEs – job security and employability, said Mr Tay at a virtual press briefing on Thursday. 

While this was the case even before the pandemic, he said that COVID-19 has “accelerated, accentuated and aggravated” the anxieties of PMEs. This is particularly for mature PMEs aged 40 and above.

“We also see from stats, even prior to COVID-19, that mature PMEs, when they lose jobs, they have a tougher journey, take a longer time to rejoin (the workforce),” said Mr Tay, adding that they often need to support both their children and elderly parents.

MONETARY SUPPORT FOR UNEMPLOYED

This is why “transitionary” support for mature PMEs, which could be in the form of monetary payouts, is an area which NTUC will be advocating.

In response to reporters’ questions for more details on this, Mr Tay said: “This is not going to be a simple exercise, I think we need to dive deeper into the exact details … there are a lot of considerations like: What's a trigger event, how much to give, how long to give, when to start giving.”

He also pointed out that there is already help now given to retrenched workers, but he hopes a new scheme can help people who “fall through the gaps”.

“In a way, this is something new … we are pushing a bit at the boundaries,” he said. “Currently there are already various financial support schemes, but we thought, moving ahead, particularly with all these disruptions and all these uncertainties, that we have some sort of a scheme to help.”

WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION

On workplace discrimination, which has been on NTUC’s agenda for about a decade, Mr Tay said that age discrimination and competition from foreign PMEs came up quite frequently when they spoke to PMEs.

“Fortunately, the general sense that there are only small numbers of errant employers. So I think one of the key things we hope to see is to address some of these more egregious cases specifically.”

He said that the Ministry of Manpower has set up a tripartite committee to look into this and they are now “sensing the ground”.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng had announced this in Parliament on Jul 26 in response to an adjournment motion filed by Mr Tay on strengthening the Singaporean core in the workforce.

Mr Tay had suggested that MOM review the existing legal and policy framework and give the Tripartite Alliance on Fair Employment Practices  or TAFEP more teeth through legislation.

Source: CNA/hm(rw)

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