More than 10,000 workers who were displaced or at risk of losing their jobs have been matched with new roles by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Job Security Council in the past few months, said labour chief Ng Chee Meng.
He told Parliament yesterday that NTUC will continue to work with companies and the Government to preserve jobs, create new ones and match workers with jobs amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Just a week earlier, NTUC said it had job-matched more than 7,000 workers since the council was set up in February.
Mr Ng, who is NTUC's secretary-general and a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said during the debate on the Fortitude Budget that NTUC will also focus on pushing for economic transformation during this crisis, so that jobs can be redesigned and workers can benefit.
"Covid-19 has sped up disruption and moved us towards Industry 4.0 in double quick time. Businesses are on a burning platform, and it's now really (time to) adopt new business models, new technologies, or die," he said.
He said the Job Security Council has placed both rank-and-file workers and professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), citing the case of Ms Gina Ng, 59, who is a senior administrative assistant at Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford.
She is now halfway through a three-month redeployment as a retail assistant at NTUC FairPrice while keeping her salary and job title at the hotel. Before her move, she went for training in food hygiene and preparation.
Said Mr Ng: "I am happy she has the ability and the agility to adopt a new mindset, adapt to the new circumstances and, importantly, took action to acquire new skills so that she can stay in the workforce."
Noting the "looming challenges ahead", he reiterated NTUC's full support for the Government's recent formation of the National Jobs Council.
Its 17 members include eight ministers as well as leaders from the labour movement and business associations. Mr Ng is among the members on the council chaired by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Mr Ng said that to preserve jobs, NTUC is working via its unions to help companies tap the training support available, like the Enhanced Training Support Package announced in the supplementary Resilience Budget in March.
NTUC LearningHub helped more than 500 firms last month to send their workers for over 20,000 days' worth of training. The businesses received up to $80 a day in absentee payroll for each worker being trained and this support for them added up to $1.6 million.
It is a win-win arrangement in which workers stay in their jobs while employers get help with their wages and have better-skilled workers for the eventual upturn, said Mr Ng.
NTUC's deputy secretary-general Koh Poh Koon, in his speech during the debate, said unionised companies that send their unionised employees for training during this period can receive up to $50,000 from the NTUC-Education and Training Fund (NETF) Collaborative Fund, up from the previous cap of $30,000.
A new NETF Collaborative Fund Lite, for non-unionised firms with 50 or more NTUC union members, will also provide training support of up to $8,000 per firm, to speed up business recovery, said Dr Koh.
In his speech, Mr Ng also said that as more economic activities resume in phases one and two of the reopening of Singapore after the circuit breaker, workplaces must change to prevent new infections and ensure businesses can stay open. "Doing so is not only the Government's responsibility. Every business owner and every worker has a shared responsibility and an important role to play," he said.
To this end, NTUC has trained more than 1,700 union leaders, company management and staff on safe management measures, he added.
For the longer term, NTUC will also partner companies with the capacity and vision to seize opportunities emerging from the pandemic.
It has been working with Temasek-linked companies to roll out company training committees (CTCs) since April last year. The committees help unionised companies to work out their specific business needs and translate those needs into a targeted training plan for employees.
Mr Ng said NTUC will redouble its efforts to partner companies through CTCs to conduct operations and technology roadmapping (OTR) to transform themselves.
The roadmapping exercises will help companies chart a course to recovery from Covid-19, as well as identify new areas for growth, exploit new technologies and create new and better jobs, he added.
Citing battery maker Energizer, Mr Ng said it is bringing in more advanced technology for its line machines. So the United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries union worked with an institute of higher learning to curate a training programme for Energizer's operators to improve their skills for the new machines.
"Even before Covid-19 hit us, actually our economy was already embarking on industry transformation brought about by technological disruption. Covid-19 has accelerated this disruption and it is clear those who started transformation early, are coping better today with the Covid-19 challenges," Mr Ng noted.
Dr Koh said NTUC will conduct more virtual-OTRs so that companies' transformation and workers' training needs continue to be addressed during the pandemic.