NTUC, union to support and help laid-off Panasonic workers find new jobs: PM Lee

Panasonic laid off some 700 workers after it announced the shut down of its refrigeration compressor manufacturing operations in Singapore. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The National Trades Union Congress and the United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries will support Panasonic workers who have been retrenched and help them find new jobs, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (Sept 24).

The Japanese company on Thursday laid off 700 workers, or about one-third of its total workforce in Singapore, as it has decided to shut down its refrigeration compressor manufacturing operations here.

In a Facebook post, Mr Lee said that he was saddened to hear of Panasonic closing its factory, which has been here since 1972.

He added that in half a century, it has produced and shipped more than a quarter billion refrigerator compressors all over the world.

PM Lee had joined the firm in celebrating the production of their 100 millionth compressor globally in 1989, of which one-third came from the Singapore factory - then the second-largest refrigeration compressor plant in the world.

"We are deeply grateful that Panasonic believed in Singapore and journeyed with us for the better part of our history."

He noted that although this factory is closing, Panasonic's refrigeration compressor global headquarters and research and development functions will remain in Singapore.

"Singapore, and in particular the Economic Development Board, highly value investors like Panasonic and will continue to partner them to create jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans," he said.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng also said on Friday that the retrenchment task force and various other government agencies are at the forefront of working with the retrenched Panasonic workers.

In response to media queries, Dr Tan said that the task force, together with the labour movement, the Employment and Employability Institute and Workforce Singapore, is working with the affected employees.

"They are also working with the company to see how we can match (the workers) with the new jobs that are available," he said.

He added that recent reports have shown that Singapore has currently more vacancies than jobseekers. "So, we hope to be able to place them as quickly as possible," he said.

Last week, the Ministry of Manpower reported that job vacancies in Singapore reached an all-time high of 92,100 in June. There were 163 job openings for every 100 unemployed people in June.

Many positions were in construction and manufacturing, which are usually taken up by foreigners but cannot be filled owing to border restrictions.

Dr Tan added: "Now, the road ahead is still going to be bumpy. And I think we need to continue to stay vigilant and keep our finger on the pulse of the economy, and also on the different industries."

He noted that Singapore is seeing a K-shaped recovery, where outward-looking industries, such as wholesale trade, finance, professional services and information and communications, will continue to see an increase in hiring and growth.

But other inward-looking sectors, as well as those in hospitality and aviation, will still face significant challenges, he said.

"So the key thing that I hope we can achieve is to encourage and nudge companies to continue to think how to innovate, how to pivot to keep ahead and keep in sync with (international) trends, which are heading towards Industry 4.0," he said.

Industry 4.0 is about increasing the use of automation and smart technology in traditional manufacturing processes, for instance.

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