NTUC calls on firms to observe responsible retrenchment practices, keep Singaporean core

The Fair Retrenchment Framework would complement the existing tripartite advisory and guidelines on managing excess manpower and responsible retrenchment. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is proposing a Fair Retrenchment Framework to help protect workers' rights and ensure fair treatment for workers who are affected by retrenchments.

This comes amid Singapore's continued economic uncertainty and more retrenchments becoming inevitable in the coming months, NTUC said in a statement on Friday (July 24).

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, layoffs are expected to rise in the coming months, with the poor outlook ahead and government assistance schemes, such as the Jobs Support Scheme payouts, ending in the coming months.

NTUC is calling on companies to ensure openness, transparency and consultation with unions and workers, and to observe the framework in line with responsible retrenchment practices.

The framework would complement the existing tripartite advisory and guidelines on managing excess manpower and responsible retrenchment, it said.

It sets out three key principles: protecting the Singaporean core of the workforce, preserving jobs and providing job support.

As part of the protection of the Singaporean core, NTUC is appealing to companies to implement fair selection criteria to ensure that Singaporeans are keeping their jobs in terms of job protection and deployment, with due considerations given to foreign workers.

This includes companies keeping older employees who may possess skills, experience, knowledge, maturity and reliability; and evaluating them based on equal basis.

Companies may also consider keeping foreigners with special or critical skills for the continuity of the business as they are intended to augment Singaporeans in the workforce, the statement added.

It noted that firms should also ensure that these skills are transferred to Singaporeans in the longer term.

Retrenchments should be the last resort for companies, and firms should seek out other measures such as pay reductions and job-share arrangements.

Companies should provide fair retrenchment packages and processes if layoffs became inevitable, it noted.

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

In a Facebook post on Friday, labour chief Ng Chee Meng reiterated the NTUC's call for companies to act responsibly, and treat their workers fairly and with dignity.

"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," he said.

Several companies have announced layoffs in recent months, including Resorts World Sentosa which reportedly laid off around 2,000 employees last week.

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 staff.

"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.

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 redeployments or negotiating for a package in good faith.

She will be meeting Mr Ng and the Singapore National Employers' Federation president Robert Yap, Mrs Teo said, noting that they will discuss how best to preserve a strong Singaporean core in the workforce.

NTUC in its statement called for firms and unions to work together to support its job strategy to help firms through the crisis and preserve jobs for workers.

This includes supporting job preservation by accepting cost-cutting measures, as well as tapping as many government assistance schemes to ease cash flow and manage cost.

The strategy also calls for matching workers to jobs by assisting them to transition to sectors that require manpower, thereby reducing manpower costs.

The labour union is also advocating the acceleration of the formation of Company Training Committees (CTCs) in companies , identify potential job displacements and re-skill at-risk workers to strengthen the Singaporean core.

These CTCs could also help to create, redesign and reclaim jobs, and train workers for future business needs, it said.

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