Many low-wage workers continue to work and get paid: Manpower Minister Josephine Teo

Low-wage employees tend to be working in vital roles. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Many lower-paid workers continue to be employed during the circuit breaker period as they are engaged in essential services, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Her remarks came in response to questions about how low-wage staff members were coping given total employment fell by the sharpest margin ever in the first quarter compared with the last three months of 2019.

Retrenchments also rose while increasing numbers of workers are affected by cost-cutting measures such as having shorter working weeks or being temporarily laid off.

Concerns have been raised about the plight of low-wage workers whose financial difficulties would increase tremendously if they are retrenched or placed on no-pay leave.

But Mrs Teo noted that while non-essential businesses had to cease operations during the circuit breaker period, low-wage employees tend to be working in vital roles.

She said: "It would appear that there are quite a lot of (low-wage) workers in essential services so they could continue to work during the circuit breaker period... Regardless, our intention, not just in the short term, but in the medium to long term is to uplift low-wage workers."

She added that Workfare payouts are available for older low-wage Singaporeans who continue working and training and a special payment of $3,000 was announced in the Budget to provide additional support for such workers aged 35 and above as of last year.

The Manpower Ministry worked with tripartite partners to issue advisories to companies that employ them as well as the service buyers that outsource the work to ensure that these workers are properly taken care of in terms of salary and welfare, said Mrs Teo.

She said some workers have seen their workload increase because more cleaning needs to be done or they have to carry out more deliveries.

"In these instances, we have reached out to companies to say they should pay the workers what they paid before, and, in fact, recognise extra work and make the appropriate adjustments to the payouts."

But she acknowledged that some workers were also assigned to projects that had to stop operations during the circuit breaker period.

In these cases, service buyers have been asked not to unilaterally cancel contracts or reduce payment to vendors as that would affect workers on these projects.

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