Tripartite partnership can help S'pore through crisis due to coronavirus pandemic: Council

From left: National Trades Union Congress president Mary Liew, National Wages Council chairman Peter Seah, Singapore National Employers Federation president Robert Yap and Permanent Secretary for Manpower Aubeck Kam at yesterday's media conference. S
From left: National Trades Union Congress president Mary Liew, National Wages Council chairman Peter Seah, Singapore National Employers Federation president Robert Yap and Permanent Secretary for Manpower Aubeck Kam at yesterday's media conference.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Singapore is home to more than 8,000 multinational companies, which may receive directives from their global headquarters regarding retrenchments as the Covid-19 impact becomes more severe.

But Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce council member Alexander Melchers said management in Singapore can tell headquarters that it can implement other cost-cutting measures and preserve its workforce in Singapore, thanks to collaboration here between the Government, company and unions.

"It is crucial for the management here to communicate to their headquarters that in Singapore, we take a very different and tripartite approach. In fact, many in Europe and America look to Singapore and even talk about 'Singapore-ising' their approach," he said at a media conference yesterday.

He added: "These circumstances call for employers to act quickly, but in a responsible and humanitarian way to sustain our businesses."

National Wages Council (NWC) chairman Peter Seah, who is DBS and Singapore Airlines chairman, said that the core principle of the tripartite movement is that all parties should always act responsibly.

"So, we certainly would not condone any parties acting irresponsibly and weakening therefore this tripartite partnership and friendship," he said when asked whether some companies might take advantage of the NWC's guidelines to cut costs, even if they are not affected by Covid-19.

National Trades Union Congress president Mary Liew said that workers are discerning and know how well the company is doing.

"I think it is important that during this time, employers step forward and also show their appreciation and work closely together with workers and also reward them fairly and accordingly as well... When the economy turns around, they will need the workers as well to continue on with their journey," she said.

She also called on workers to be adaptable to go for training and accept flexible work schedules or new job roles, and if necessary, accept lower pay if that will help the company retain them.

NWC had considered whether to recommend reducing Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates to cut wage costs, which was done in 2003 amid concerns about Singapore's cost competitiveness.

Permanent Secretary for Manpower Aubeck Kam said that as the 25 per cent wage subsidy in the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme announced last week far exceeds the employer CPF contribution rates of up to 17 per cent, the Government did not feel that a cut to the rate was warranted.

Singapore National Employers Federation president Robert Yap agreed that the supplementary budget "helped to solve many, many issues", while Ms Liew noted that CPF savings help workers pay for their mortgage loans.

Joanna Seow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2020, with the headline 'Tripartite partnership can help S'pore through crisis: Council'. Subscribe