Temporary pay reduction better than having no job, say job seekers

The National Wages Council recommended that management also inform their staff how their wages would eventually be restored.
The National Wages Council recommended that management also inform their staff how their wages would eventually be restored.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

For Mr Nur Fazli, 33, who was laid off in June, taking a six-month pay cut would have been better than losing his job.

The former store supervisor said he was taken by surprise when his employer delivered the news, as he had believed his logistics job was secure.

"I would rather have people cut my pay for a few months... than just (have) zero income," he told The Sunday Times yesterday.

"Everyone has to eat. We cannot just let people go like that."

His sentiments were echoed by other job seekers at a career fair held at Our Tampines Hub yesterday, with some saying they were prepared to take up to a 50 per cent pay cut to secure a job.

But most added that they would actively look for other jobs, if wages stayed low for too long.

On Friday, the National Wages Council (NWC) gave employers the green light to cut wages in order to save jobs, provided that government support and other cost-saving measures have been exhausted.

It recommended that management take earlier and deeper cuts, and also inform their staff how their wages would eventually be restored.

"The employer must honour the fact that the pay cut is temporary," said Ms Denise Tan, who attended yesterday's career fair. The former customer service executive, who is in her 50s, said she was willing to take a 30 per cent pay cut from her previous job. But she was doubtful that employers would reinstate salaries once business improves.

Around 1,400 jobs were on offer at the two-day fair which ended yesterday. It was organised by the North East Community Development Council (CDC), in collaboration with NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute. The jobs include positions in the retail, logistics, transport and food and beverage industries.

North East CDC said the number of residents seeking employment assistance has more than doubled over the past three months, compared with the previous quarter.

ST also spoke to several Singaporeans who did not attend the job fair for their views on the NWC recommendations this year.

Some suggested that employers could stop paying their portion of Central Provident Fund contributions as a cost-saving measure rather than cutting workers' wages, while others raised concerns over having their pay cut even though their company was still profitable.

One of them was Ms P.T. Lee, 49, who works in the private education industry. Her company has already implemented a wage freeze, which will likely be in place until August 2022, she said. With the NWC's go-ahead for pay cuts to save jobs, she is worried that her employer will follow suit. "I don't think it is fair if the company is making a profit and still cuts staff pay," said Ms Lee.

Another Singaporean, who wanted to be known only as Muhammad, said he would be able to stomach a 10 per cent pay cut. The 36-year-old, who works in the logistics industry and earns between $2,000 and $2,500 a month, said anything else would be a "burden".

Mr Muhammad said his pay remains unchanged for now, although he has friends who have been affected. "For lower-wage employees, getting a salary freeze is terrible," he added. "Saving for rainy days is not possible for them, considering the low wage and high living standard in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2020, with the headline 'Temporary pay reduction better than having no job, say job seekers'. Print Edition | Subscribe