Retain workers, refrain from pay cuts during Covid-19 crisis: Labour chief

Labour chief Ng Chee Meng urged employers to retain workers and refrain from wage cuts, noting that the Government has rolled out measures to help companies.

In a video message to workers yesterday, the secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) acknowledged the concerns of many workers as he called on employers to be fair to workers during the crisis.

"With the Covid-19 circuit breaker measures, I know that many of you are worried about job security. Some of you worry about losing your jobs; some worry whether you will have a pay cut. And if this happens, you worry about how to put food on the table, not just for yourself, but your family," he said. "I, too, am concerned because it is my job as the labour chief to worry about the things that you worry about."

And while he conceded that he could not say what would happen in the future, he said the support measures in the Budget provide significant relief to employers.

Mr Ng cited the Jobs Support Scheme that will give employers a 75 per cent subsidy for the first $4,600 of gross wages paid for all local employees. "This means that your employer gets funding to keep you in your job. Your employer can also make use of the absentee payroll funding to send you for training."

"This will recover some of their manpower costs. Because when you go for those training, employers can claim at least 80 per cent of your basic hourly wages," he said. "So, with all this help from the Government, I hope your employers will be fair to you."

The Jobs Support Scheme was first announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during the Budget in February, and later enhanced twice in subsequent supplementary budgets on March 26 and last Monday.

The wage subsidy will apply to salaries paid this month for more than 1.9 million Singaporean and permanent resident employees. All together, the three budgets have set aside nearly $60 billion to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Mr Ng added that any workers who need help can contact NTUC.

"Let us show Unity as one nation, display Resilience as one people and for now, importantly, stay home, so that in Solidarity we can stay safe as one family," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 12, 2020, with the headline Retain workers, refrain from pay cuts during Covid-19 crisis: Labour chief. Subscribe