Coronavirus pandemic: May Day

President urges workers, companies to be ready for big changes after crisis

President Halimah Yacob said that the outbreak has brought out the best in Singapore's workers. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Society will see major changes to work, the workforce and workplaces after the coronavirus crisis, President Halimah Yacob said in her May Day message on Facebook yesterday.

She added: "Life will never be the same after Covid-19... Companies and workers should take full advantage of this period to plan, rethink their strategies and ramp up workers' skills to prepare for work after Covid-19."

Madam Halimah also commented on this year's unusual May Day celebrations, with social distancing measures and activities either taken online or cancelled.

"This May Day, we are also celebrating under very difficult circumstances," she noted. "Companies worry about the impact on their businesses and workers are concerned about job and income security."

The Jobs Support Scheme, which subsidises workers' wages, has provided some relief, she added, with hopes that employers retain their staff despite having excess capacity or no activity at all.

"Despite all these measures, many workers now enjoy less income because there is no overtime pay and the self-employed find it even more difficult in the current economic conditions to earn a living. I hope that the various government and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistance schemes will provide some relief," she said.

Madam Halimah also emphasised that the unions, working with their tripartite partners, are playing an even more important role in supporting companies and workers.

"Trade unions are close to the ground and understand well the concerns and needs of the workers. They can do a lot to help them transit through this period and prepare for the eventual opening up of the economy after Covid-19," she said.

"Unions and unionised companies must lead the way as our economy adjusts to new norms post-Covid-19. I am glad that during my discussions and lunches with union leaders before the circuit breaker measures kicked in, I saw their drive to continue working closely with our tripartite partners to improve our workers' lives.

"I hope to continue to engage the unions and to find out how we can support our workers better."

President Halimah is a former deputy secretary-general of the labour movement. She started her career as a legal officer at NTUC.

She added that the outbreak has brought out the best in Singapore's workers, mentioning front-line staff and those in an array of industries who continue behind the scenes in essential roles.

"Other workers are innovating and designing new ways to help one another, the less fortunate and the needy, so that we can pull out of this crisis stronger. These are all incredibly selfless acts in the face of great risks, and we should not take their contributions for granted," she said.

"Your commitment and contributions truly make a difference," she added.

"These are unprecedented times but our spirit and solidarity remain strong and will see us through."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2020, with the headline President urges workers, companies to be ready for big changes after crisis. Subscribe