When I became labour chief, my main focus was to take care of all workers. Today, we face unprecedented challenges that Covid-19 brings. I know many are grappling with anxiety, fears and stress. I understand these concerns and I want to reassure you that if we work together, we will pull through. Hang in there.
As Secretary-General of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), I stated clearly during the Budget debate that NTUC will work closely with the Government and businesses to tackle the spread of Covid-19 and protect workers during this challenging time. We are doing our very best to help see everyone through this.
Much to our dismay, the Covid-19 outbreak has escalated quicker than most would have expected in the past few weeks. Beyond the speed, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean had warned that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to take at least a year to resolve. We all know that the economic repercussions will likely last even longer. I know this is very worrying to all.
Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat presented a supplementary Resilience Package amounting to $48 billion last Thursday. This includes a $16.4 billion package to save your job, support you through this period and most importantly, protect you and your family’s livelihoods (Refer to graphics). Enterprises, companies you are working for, will get the necessary help with the $21 billion targeted for them. We have help for Singaporean families too, setting aside $4.6 billion to help ease some of the worries on your household expenses and bills.
Singapore is serious about what we are doing to help each one of us get through this. The earlier announced Unity Budget of $6.4 billion has now been bolstered with $48 billion worth of measures to help workers like you and companies face these trying times. DPM Heng said that these are extraordinary measures for an extraordinary situation. I fully agree with him. These are shaped from feedback given by ordinary Singaporeans – from taxi drivers, union leaders, to workers in sectors such as aviation, tourism and land transport, among others. Your continued feedback is critical so that we can align the things we do with needs on the ground.
Earlier this month, I announced the $25 million NTUC Care Fund (Covid-19) to provide one-off relief of up to $300 per eligible union member. There is also the $40 million NTUC Training Fund (SEP) in conjunction with government to help freelancers out there earn as they train. It will help them to make use of this period to go for training, and with each training they go for, hopefully deepen their skills and earn more.
I am also concerned about Professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), specifically those that are in their late 40s and 50s. I have thought much about how to help these vulnerable PMEs since I took on my role as the labour chief. Here is what we’ve done on our part – we are piloting a new Job Security Council this year that will better match our workers, especially our mature PMEs from companies with excess manpower into those with manpower shortage. Through the NTUC Job Security Council, we hope to shorten the unemployment duration, so that there is minimal impact to workers’ livelihoods.
I hope these measures can give Singaporean workers who are at risk, some assurance that we at NTUC are here to help you. Rest assured, that if need be, we stand ready to ramp up our support and to do more to help our workers, because every worker matters. This is not just NTUC’s commitment, but my personal commitment to you.
We can do all these because of Singapore’s strong fundamentals as well as our unique tripartite model between the Government, unions and employers.
The worst of the Covid-19 situation has yet to come but it has brought about the best in Singaporeans. I have seen many stepping up to lend a helping hand to those in need. In times of a crisis like this, all of us must play our part and steel ourselves with a toughness of mind and spirit. If we do, rest assured that the Government will spare no effort to ensure that we pull through this storm together, as one.
Together, we can, we must, and we will.
Ng Chee Meng
People’s Action Party
30 March 2020