Labour movement makes recommendations for Budget 2017

Office workers walking outside Raffles Place MRT station during lunch time.
Office workers walking outside Raffles Place MRT station during lunch time. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The labour movement has called on the Government and employers to review job applicants and promotion candidates based on their skills rather than only on grades.

It also recommended better protection for freelancers under labour laws.

These are among the recommendations it submitted to the Ministry of Finance last month (December 2016) for the upcoming Budget, and are aimed at helping working people transit into available jobs quickly and remain competitive amid the challenging economic environment.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will deliver the Budget statement in Parliament on Feb 20.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said on Tuesday (Jan 17) that while workers need to quickly pick up skills which employers require, it takes time to roll out training programmes with traditional academic rigour.

"We hope that when hiring or promoting people, employers will look at skills-based assessments rather than whether or not they have a master's," he told The Straits Times.

 

NTUC released the 46-page report on its recommendations on Tuesday.

Another of its suggestion was to have more modular courses and training programmes, to make it more convenient for workers to upgrade their skills.

NTUC called on the Government to pay for training leave for workers to attend SkillsFuture courses, and urged the Manpower Ministry, in particular, to provide data from the Jobs Bank on the types of skill requirements, salary bands and job descriptions employers are posting.

This will help with forecasting manpower trends and creating relevant training programmes, said NTUC in its report.

For women rejoining the workforce, NTUC proposed a "Returnship Programme", where these women and their employers try out an arrangement for a few months - similar to an internship - before the workers are formally employed and go for training through Professional Conversion Programmes.

It also suggested that the Government provides Special Employment Credit for bosses who employ these women.

The fast pace of change means women who left the workforce to be caregivers may find it difficult to catch up with changes in the workplace when they try to find a new job, said Mr Tay, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower. "For those keen and able to go back to work, this would help them reconnect with the industry," he added.

As the nature of employment changes, more protection should also be extended to freelancers, said NTUC.

There are an estimated 200,000 freelancers, and they are not covered under the Employment Act and Work Injury Compensation Act, it said.

NTUC suggested that the Government supports freelancers who contribute towards their Central Provident Fund savings for retirement adequacy.

Turning to low-wage workers, it also said that those in the cleaning, security and landscaping sectors should be given compulsory annual wage increments and 13-month payments.

The labour movement also reiterated its call for the law on Government procurement to be updated to improve public sector practices when procuring outsourced services.

For young workers, the NTUC recommended accrediting employers who offer apprenticeship schemes, while for older workers, it recommended higher wage subsidies under the Special Employment Credit scheme.

Other recommendations included improving job matching for out-of-work people; boosting productivity through targeted funding for sectors such as food and beverage, retail and construction; and providing funding for smaller companies to improve workplace safety and health.

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee said funding to manage safety risks would be welcome, as smaller businesses have been facing rising costs, “while customer demands in terms of quality and speed have not abated”.