Budget debate: NTUC piloting Job Security Council with 4,000 companies to match retrenched workers to vacancies

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said the move comes amid growing concern among workers, usually in their 40s to 50s, as PMEs are asked to go because their skills have become redundant as technologies evolve. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The labour movement is bringing together 4,000 companies of various sizes to help place retrenched professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) in new jobs fast.

A new Job Security Council will gather information on their job vacancies, jobs that can be redesigned as well as jobs being phased out, and match workers from "releasing" companies to "receiving" companies, said National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general Ng Chee Meng in Parliament on Wednesday (Feb 26).

The 4,000 companies across various sectors employ a total of about 500,000 workers, and 90 per cent of them are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Some companies on board are engine maker Rolls-Royce and bakeries Swee Heng Bakery and Montreux Patisserie.

Mr Ng said the move comes amid growing concern among workers, usually in their 40s to 50s, as PMEs are asked to go because their skills have become redundant.. They may take a long time to find another job and it may not pay as well or does not fully use their skills.

"Although these numbers are not large, for the individual worker or PME, who has mouths to feed and bills to pay, the situation can create a lot of fear and anxiety," Mr Ng said during the debate on the Budget statement.

The council, staffed by the NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), will start a pilot run immediately and build on the trust between companies and NTUC to gather the necessary information.

Mr Ng, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said it will also help companies identify the skill gaps of the new workers so that they can be trained, and recommend government schemes like those under the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support Package announced in last week's Budget speech.

"All these companies stand to benefit from a lower-cost, ready-made recruitment tool through the Job Security Council, with the added bonus of training and skills upgrading for workers," he added.

In his speech, he also gave an update on the NTUC's company training committee initiative, which was started last year with the aim of forming 1,000 of such groups in three years. The committees comprise company and union representatives who work together to plan and execute targeted training for workers to prepare them for business transformation.

They have the added benefit of providing a ready-made avenue for management to discuss more immediate issues with the union, such as manpower and cost concerns owing to the Covid-19 situation, said Mr Ng, adding that 352 committees have been formed so far.

During the current lull, union leaders are also helping companies arrange for subsidised training for workers through NTUC LearningHub and e2i, he added.

Mr Ng noted that Singapore is facing a deeper, more wide-ranging impact to its economy from the coronavirus outbreak, compared with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003.

Hotel occupancy rates are down to about 35 per cent from highs of 85 per cent and more, taxi and private-hire drivers have seen their incomes dip by up to 40 per cent, tourist attractions have up to 90 per cent fewer visitors, and many workers are uncertain about their job and income security, he noted.

Employers are also starting to see delays in the supply chain and some lack workers while others have excess capacity.

"Our world is now much more interconnected with China, and the disruption to the Chinese economy is starting to cause far-reaching ripple effects that have affected Singapore as well."

"So let us all be mentally prepared, and importantly, ready ourselves, stay strong and overcome any challenges that come our way," Mr Ng said.

He lauded the "strong Budget" which he said reflects a whole-of-Government approach to tackling the virus and maintaining workers' confidence in the economy.

He also thanked front-line workers - medical staff, drivers, air crews, cleaners, security officers and others - for their tireless work, and added that the NTUC will work closely with the Government and businesses to tackle the spread of Covid-19 and protect workers.

"Around the world, the social compact in many societies is breaking down. The trust citizens have in their political leaders is eroding. But in Singapore, we have the trust of Singaporeans. It is something that we must never take for granted.

"In Singapore, we enjoy the fruits of hard-earned tripartism, which has brought us economic resilience and social stability.

"Underpinned by this year's strong Budget, all these will ensure that Singaporeans' lives are uplifted together," he said.


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