National Wages Council should reach consensus soon: MOM perm sec

The National Wages Council was reconvened in August as the labour market situation worsened owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO: ST FILE

The National Wages Council should be able to reach consensus in the coming weeks, said Permanent Secretary for Manpower Aubeck Kam yesterday.

Mr Kam, a member of the council, said the issues of flexibility, such as in how employers and workers respond to the changing labour market conditions, as well as how wages should be adjusted as and when businesses recover, are being discussed.

"We're making good progress in coming to an agreement on those in the weeks to come," he said during a presentation at the HR Tech Festival Asia online conference.

The tripartite council, which comprises representatives from the Government, employer groups and unions, had made its annual recommendations in March.

But it was reconvened last month as the labour market situation worsened owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The council had originally aimed to release its updated guidelines by this month.

When asked about the delay, a Ministry of Manpower spokesman told The Straits Times that the council's deliberations typically take around two months, although the most recent recommendations in March were completed in a shorter time.

Mr Kam also outlined Singapore's response to the labour market challenges brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

It has pivoted from relying entirely on wage support through the Jobs Support Scheme to opening up the new $1 billion Jobs Growth Incentive.

This signals that the Government will support businesses to create jobs early and that they should not hold back from hiring local workers.

It has become clearer that industries and businesses across the world are adapting to the Covid-19 situation, and some are unlikely to return any time soon to operating as they did before the pandemic, said Mr Kam.

But since it was not known earlier this year how quickly demand would rebound, it made sense then to focus on wage support to help companies keep their workers, he added.

The National Jobs Council was also set up in June to push for a large bank of job, traineeship and training opportunities, catering to all sectors and skill levels.

Mr Kam noted that although the measures have not completely shielded Singapore's labour market from the impact of the pandemic, they have helped to moderate the effects.

He added that trust between the tripartite partners has also enabled difficult decisions to be taken for the greater good.

He cited how the recent settlement between Singapore Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association - Singapore saw some of the pilots taking significant pay cuts in exchange for the company committing not to retrench any more pilots until 2022.

"The ability to reach this successful agreement shows that tripartite trust remains unshaken despite the very challenging conditions that all parties have had to face this year," Mr Kam said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2020, with the headline National Wages Council should reach consensus soon: MOM perm sec. Subscribe