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MOM's focus is to prevent large-scale job losses: Josephine Teo

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Mrs Teo also noted that there were suggestions from the closed-door session on how the government can further adjust their schemes.

Singapore

THE Ministry of Manpower's focus in the coming months is to prevent large-scale job losses, said Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo on Wednesday, even as she stressed that this does not represent a shift away from the ministry's mandate to promote job and wage growth in the medium to longer term.

Further, employers are required from Thursday to notify the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) if they implement any cost-saving measures that impact employee's monthly salaries, so as to encourage responsible implementation and allow MOM to monitor the scope and scale of such measures.

The new requirement, which was unveiled on Wednesday, applies to employers with 10 or more employees and is intended to be a temporary measure until the economy recovers.

This measure also prevents downstream salary disputes and enables the tripartite partners to step in to provide the appropriate support to both employers and employees when needed.

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This was one of three measures added to the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment, which was jointly updated by MOM, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF). Employers are also encouraged to leverage flexible work schedules or time-banking.

Companies that choose to time-bank can look to reduce weekly working hours while business is slow, creating a "timebank" of unused working hours. These can then be used to offset the increase in working hours in subsequent periods.

In offsetting future overtime pay, the employee (or union if the company is unionised) and employer may agree on the rate at which the accrued hours are to be valued. Employers who wish to implement flexible work schedules need to seek the support of the employees (and union if applicable) and thereafter apply to the Commissioner for Labour.

Separately, the updated advisory also encourages training and upskilling. Employers can tap training support schemes under the SkillsFuture movement, redeployment programmes under the Adapt and Grow initiative, and other grants. As examples, Mrs Teo cited Mandarin Oriental Singapore and ST Logistics as organisations that are using the downtime to carry out the training they had no spare capacity to run previously.

"Across the sectors most seriously hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, about 2,600 people will get similar support," said Mrs Teo in her closing speech, following a closed-door SNEF-SBF post-committee of supply dialogue.

Mrs Teo also noted that there were suggestions from the closed-door session on how the government can further adjust their schemes. Some of these suggestions include a request to look at manpower redeployment options within an organisation and a question of how to retain talent within the sector in the face of global headcount cuts. Mrs Teo said MOM would look into the issues raised.

To help businesses with excess manpower, MOM had earlier announced the Manpower Connect scheme to allow employers in the manufacturing and services sector to transfer their excess PRC work permit holders to other companies who may still have manpower shortages.

In addition, the government has, as part of the S$4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package introduced in Budget 2020, set aside 60 per cent to go toward job support and wage credits.

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