President Halimah to launch new initiative to recognise contributions of workers

National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng and President Halimah Yacob speak at a dialogue with over 30 union leaders at the Istana on July 15, 2019. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - A new initiative will be launched to show appreciation to workers who have toiled quietly behind the scenes to contribute to Singapore's growth, said President Halimah Yacob on Monday (July 15).

"The idea is that there are a lot of workers doing a lot of work behind the scenes and people don't see them, people don't know about them, but they are quietly contributing strongly to Singapore and Singaporean's welfare," she said told reporters at the Istana.

"I would like to...embrace our workers, give them the support, give them appreciation, because Singapore's growth and development is possible only because our workers...have contributed to it significantly."

Madam Halimah, who had been with the labour movement for some 30 years, has been meeting up with workers in the healthcare, transport and social work sectors, since becoming President in September 2017.

The new initiative will be an expansion of these sessions, she said.

She announced this after a dialogue at the Istana with more than 30 union leaders from the industrial unions, such as oil and gas and shipbuilding sectors, as well as National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng.

Speaking to reporters after the closed-door session, she said they had discussed issues such as how globalisation, technological changes and the United States-China trade war can affect people's livelihood.

"Generally the mood is very positive because they can still see that there are jobs created," said Madam Halimah. "They also understand that there is a strong pipeline of investments that we have because Singapore as a country is still very much valued for its opportunities that we provide investors."

Madam Halimah's remarks come after the latest flash estimates showed that growth in the second quarter had slowed to 0.1 per cent - the slowest since

the second quarter of 2009, during the Great Recession.

She added that a slowing economy could also provide more opportunities for workers to pick up new skills or upgrade themselves.

Factories, for instance, are more likely to send workers for training if they are not operating round the clock, she said.

Madam Halimah also said that the tripartite relationship between the Government, the labour movement and employers will be important in helping Singapore overcome challenges brought by a downturn.

"That provides a very good basis for the three parties to sit down whether at the company level when faced with issues and challenges, or the national level to work out policies that are needed for a slowing economy in the event of a downturn," she said.

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