NTUC ready to keep protecting workers, but more hard days ahead: Ng

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Workers have been shielded from the worst economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic because of substantial financial support from the Government, but there will likely be retrenchments and more difficult days ahead, said labour chief Ng Chee Meng.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) remains prepared to support workers amid these challenging times by protecting every worker, preserving jobs for all and providing care and support for those in need, he said in his National Day message yesterday.

"This year has been a year like no other. We are amidst great change and upheaval. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted Singapore and many countries economically and socially. The health risks are still at our doorstep," said Mr Ng, who is NTUC secretary-general.

"Although the Government's substantial financial aid has shielded us from the very worst economic effects at the onset of the pandemic, we must be prepared for retrenchments, cutbacks and more difficult days ahead."

He also thanked front-line workers, who have stepped up to protect communities, for their selfless dedication.

Mr Ng said NTUC is working with companies to preserve jobs by first exploring all cost-cutting options.

He urged employers to consider seconding workers to sectors that are still hiring, so as to preserve their own manpower capabilities while keeping workers employed.

Employers in industries that can still train workers can tap the enhanced Union Training Assistance Programme and the NETF (NTUC-Education and Training Fund) Collaborative Fund, he added.

Where retrenchment is unavoidable, the top priority is to ensure that companies treat workers fairly and with dignity, according to the Fair Retrenchment Framework which NTUC proposed last month, said Mr Ng.

Among other things, the framework includes protecting the Singaporean core of the workforce, while foreigners with special or critical skills could be retained as well.

Mr Ng said that unions, together with NTUC's Job Security Council and the Employment and Employability Institute, will do their best to match affected workers to jobs and ensure that they receive training as needed for them to take on new jobs.

Wishing workers a happy National Day, he concluded: "Now, more than ever, Singaporeans must unite. NTUC promises to work together with you to emerge stronger and build a Singapore that we can be proud to call home."