May Day Tripartite Message 2020 by Minister for Manpower Mrs Josephine Teo, NTUC President Ms Mary Liew, NTUC Secretary-General Mr Ng Chee Meng and SNEF President Dr Robert Yap
This year’s May Day Message is different from any of our past May Day messages. This year, we, the Tripartite Partners, decided to write one together, to reflect our solidarity in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and our steadfast commitment to protecting both lives and livelihoods.
Taking It On Together
COVID-19 has affected the global economy and our daily lives. While efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 are ongoing, businesses and workers are also concerned about how we can save jobs and reopen for business without putting workers’ lives at risk. It remains uncertain how this pandemic will develop, even after the circuit breaker. But what is certain is that we are prepared to do what we can to protect livelihoods and ensure the sustainability of businesses.
The Tripartite Partners have worked closely to respond swiftly in a whole-of-nation effort. For example, we convened the National Wages Council earlier than usual and issued more than 10 advisories to give clear guidance to employers and workers in taking responsible actions to cope with the COVID-19 situation.
Of the $63.7 billion Budget dedicated to fight COVID-19, more than a third has been set aside for job and wage support. The enhanced Jobs Support Scheme helps companies retain and pay their workers, even as they experience a drop in business activity. Workers and self-employed persons (SEPs) are encouraged to make use of the downtime to improve their skills with enhanced training support covering increased course fee subsidies and absentee payroll, as well as the NTUC Training Fund for SEPs. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is also working with NTUC to help SEPs with less means through the SEP Income Relief Scheme.
Beyond financial support, we are creating job opportunities for those seeking employment in this difficult job market through the SGUnited Jobs Initiative, led by MOM and Workforce Singapore, and supported by the unions and NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute). Besides pre-emptively helping companies with workers at risk of retrenchment, the NTUC Job Security Council is supporting companies during this difficult time by helping them match jobs in demand to workers. The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) is also doing its part by helping to reskill and place unemployed older PMETs in SMEs during this period. Reskilling and redeployment efforts are also being ramped up in sectors most severely affected by COVID-19, such as tourism, aviation, retail, and food services. Additionally, we are supporting young graduates from our ITE, polytechnics and universities and other educational institutions through the SGUnited Traineeships Programme.
While supporting local workers remains our top priority, we are also taking care of our migrant workers who have contributed to building up Singapore and carry out essential services. During the COVID-19 outbreak, we will prioritise their health and safety. In addition, the foreign worker levy waiver and rebate measures will provide support for their employers to pay and upkeep these workers, and maintain their workforce to resume operations after the circuit breaker.
Preparing for the Future
As we tackle the immediate challenges brought on by COVID-19, we urge employers not to lose sight of the longer term. They must continue to transform their businesses and upgrade their workforce capabilities. The Company Training Committees led by NTUC are ready-made platforms for employers and unions to work together to upskill their workers and be ready for economic recovery. Accelerating digitalisation efforts and embracing the concept of flexible work arrangements will also help companies to be better prepared. In turn, workers must do their part and adapt to the new norms of work.
Even though the circuit breaker measures have brought inconveniences, we thank workers for understanding the importance of these measures and making the necessary adjustments for their safety and health. Even more inspiring is the help and care that workers and their families have extended to one another. We are grateful for the strong #SGUnited spirit.
COVID-19 is perhaps one of the greatest challenges we have faced as Tripartite Partners. But we are well prepared. NTUC, together with the Government and SNEF, resolve to stay united and get through this together with our businesses and workers. We will help businesses stay afloat and be geared for the upturn when it comes. We will put Singapore and workers at the heart of everything we do and take this opportunity to build a resilient workforce. Together, we stand in solidarity with our people to navigate this crisis and emerge stronger and more united as one nation.
We wish all workers a safe and happy May Day!