National Wages Council to convene on April 19, will announce guidelines by end-May

NWC will take into account economic situations and outlook given the pandemic, as well as Singapore's pace of recovery.
NWC will take into account economic situations and outlook given the pandemic, as well as Singapore's pace of recovery.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The National Wages Council (NWC) will convene next Monday (April 19) to relook guidelines on wage- and employment-related issues amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its deliberations, it will take into account the domestic and global economic situations and outlook given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, as well as Singapore's pace of recovery, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Wednesday.

The NWC - which is chaired by DBS Bank chairman Peter Seah and comprises representatives from the Government, employers and unions - aims to announce the updated guidelines by the end of next month.

The high-level council meets every year to update guidelines on wage and employment matters.

Last year, the NWC, in a rare move, reviewed its wage guidelines for a second time as the coronavirus outbreak took its toll on the labour market.

It was only the fourth time since being set up in 1972 that the council had been convened twice in the same year.

The previous times came amid major economic crises as well - in 2009, 2001 and 1998.

Last October, the NWC said in updated guidelines applicable from Nov 1 last year to June 30 that employers may implement temporary wage cuts if it means saving jobs. But it added that employers should seek employees’ support before doing so, and make only the reductions necessary to minimise retrenchments. 

The council also convened earlier than usual in March last year to discuss wages in light of the coronavirus outbreak. It usually meets in April and May.

Then, its initial annual recommendations focused on reducing non-wage costs and tapping government support first. Analysts said as business sentiment improves, the NWC would likely advise on the gradual restoration of wages that were cut last year amid a sluggish economy.

Mr Paul Heng, managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group, said wages are a major component of business costs. 

He added that it would be useful for the council to tailor their recommendations to the various sectors, from those not adversely impacted by the pandemic to the ones that have been heavily affected. There should also be a focus on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), he said. 

Mr David Leong, managing director of recruiter PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said wage calibration is always a sensitive issue, noting that the NWC convened twice last year to help manage the expectations of employers and employees. 

“This restoration has to be progressive, as many employers are not entirely out of the woods yet,” he added.