SINGAPORE - The labour movement, Government and employers on Wednesday (April 29) pledged their solidarity with workers in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, and their steadfast commitment to protecting lives and livelihoods.
For the first time, tripartite partners National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) - issued a joint May Day message.
"We are prepared to do what we can to protect livelihoods and ensure the sustainability of businesses," they said in their message, which was co-written by NTUC president Mary Liew, NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and SNEF president Robert Yap.
These whole-of-nation efforts, they said, included convening the National Wages Council earlier than usual and issuing over 10 advisories to give clear guidance to employers and workers on coping with the Covid-19 situation.
The partners noted that over a third of the $63.7 billion allocated in the Budget to fight Covid-19 had been set aside for jobs and wage support, including the Jobs Support Scheme that subsidies wages and helps companies retain their workers.
They also encouraged workers and self-employed persons (SEPs)to make use of the downtime to improve their skills with the enhanced training support, such as increased course fee subsidies and the NTUC Training Fund for SEPs.
Said NTUC's Mr Ng in an accompanying video: "We urge employers to tap on the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme to retain and continue paying their workers. We also want to encourage workers and self-employed persons to use this difficult time to improve their skills."
Beyond financial support, the partners are also creating opportunities in the difficult job market through the SGUnited Jobs Initiative, they said, adding that besides pre-emptively helping companies with workers at risk of retrenchment, the NTUC Job Security Council is helping companies match jobs in demand to workers.
"The SNEF is also doing its part by helping to reskill and place unemployed older professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in small and medium-sized enterprises during this period," they said in the message.
"Reskilling and redeployment efforts are also being ramped up in sectors most severely affected by Covid-19, such as tourism, aviation, retail, and food services."
Other efforts include the SGUnited Traineeships Programme, which aims to provide up to 8,000 paid traineeship places for graduates from ITEs, polytechnics, universities and other educational institutions.
The Government's support extends to protecting the health and safety of migrant workers too, they said, adding that foreign worker levy waiver and rebate measures will enable employers to pay these workers, so that they can resume operations after the circuit breaker ends on June 1.
Said Mrs Teo: "Supporting local workers remains our top priority, but we are also taking care of our migrant workers. We are all part of the same workforce and we will weather the storm together and emerge stronger."
The partners also urged workers to do their part and adapt to the new norms of work, even as employers prepare for the long term by transforming their businesses and upgrading workforce capabilities, including through the Company Training Committees led by NTUC. "Accelerating digitalisation efforts and embracing the concept of flexible work arrangements will also help companies to be better prepared," they said.
Concluding their message, they said that the labour movement, Government and employers will stand united with businesses and workers and build a resilient workforce.
"Covid-19 is perhaps one of the greatest challenges we have faced as tripartite partners. But we are well prepared," they said. "We will help businesses stay afloat and be geared for the upturn when it comes... Together, we stand in solidarity with our people to navigate this crisis and emerge stronger and more united as one nation."