Firms laying off staff must keep S'porean core: NTUC

Labour movement calls on firms to ensure that any retrenchments will be done fairly

The office crowd in masks at Raffles Place during lunch hour on June 15, 2020.
The office crowd in masks at Raffles Place during lunch hour on June 15, 2020.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The labour movement yesterday asked firms to ensure that workers affected by retrenchments were treated fairly and the Singaporean core of the workforce kept intact.

Job losses are expected to rise, given the uncertain economic outlook, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said.

"With more retrenchments becoming inevitable in the coming months, NTUC calls on companies to ensure openness, transparency and consultation with our unions and workers," it said.

The NTUC asked firms to observe the Fair Retrenchment Framework, which promotes responsible practices for firms laying off staff.

A key principle of this framework is protecting the Singaporean core of the workforce, "with Singaporeans keeping their jobs in terms of job protection and redeployment, while due considerations are given to foreign workers", the NTUC said.

Jobs must be preserved as far as possible, and job support extended, it added.

Older employees, who may possess skills, maturity and experience, should be evaluated on an equal basis, without being discriminated against.

Foreigners with special or critical skills could be kept. "Companies should also ensure that these skills are transferred to Singaporeans in the longer term," it said.

In a Facebook post, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo told employers that it is in their own interest to preserve their Singaporean core, even as they retrench workers.

"While being fair to all affected workers, keep in mind how the local workers have contributed to your presence and past successes in Singapore. As much as Singapore welcomes you to make this the best home for your business, we need you to make your company the best home for our people," she said.

NTUC has also asked companies to avoid retrenchments altogether if they can. It added: "Retrenchments should be the last resort for companies."

Before that, they should attempt other steps such as pay reductions and job-share arrangements.

 
 

If layoffs become inevitable, firms should provide fair retrenchment packages and processes, it said.

Firms should also get on board the NTUC Job Security Council to provide support to workers who may be affected by retrenchment, and help them seek new employment and training for skills required for new jobs.

Labour chief Ng Chee Meng noted in a Facebook post yesterday: "I urge all companies to work with NTUC and our unions early so that our workers can get the best help possible in these challenging times."

Several companies, especially those operating in industries directly affected by the pandemic, have announced layoffs in recent months.

Integrated resort operator Resorts World Sentosa laid off a reported 2,000 employees last week, while hospitality group Banyan Tree cut 30 per cent of its workforce in Singapore last month.

Meanwhile, one of the key government schemes which have helped stave off retrenchments, the Jobs Support Scheme, will be rolled back next month, with the final payout to come in October.

The scheme helps to offset part of the wages of local employees.

 
 

NTUC has asked firms and unions to work together to ride through the crisis and preserve employment.

This could be done by accepting cost-cutting measures and tapping government assistance schemes to ease cash flow.

It also wanted firms to help workers transition to sectors that require manpower.

In her post, Mrs Teo noted that while employers must be fair to workers in handling layoffs, workers and unions too need to be fair to employers, hearing them out and understanding the situation, accepting redeployment or negotiating for a package in good faith.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2020, with the headline 'Firms laying off staff must keep S'porean core: NTUC'. Print Edition | Subscribe