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NTUC and SNEF warn workers and employers of challenging year ahead

The Labour Movement affirms its commitment to protect union members as jobs and businesses are expected to be further disrupted.

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NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) have warned of a more challenging year for workers and businesses.


During a joint media conference on 6 February 2024, they shared insights on the economic and labour market outlook and workers’ concerns for the year ahead.


According to NTUC and SNEF, disruptions to international trade and global supply chains are on the horizon.


The sharing comes amidst data and observations, where structural trends like automation, artificial intelligence and sustainability, and rising geopolitical tensions exist.


The media session was helmed by NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng and SNEF President Robert Yap ahead of the Singapore Budget Statement set to be delivered on 16 February 2024.


More workers are worried about job security


Mr Ng said it would likely be a challenging year for workers, particularly regarding job security.


“We are already starting to see signs, particularly with retrenchment figures doubling and wage growth stagnating or even declining,” he explained.


He said that unions have been walking the ground, gathering sentiments with unionised companies.


He added that sectors feeling the most headwinds include electronics, oil and gas, chemicals, and food manufacturing.


Mr Ng said that workers have shared that they are worried about job security and the rising cost of living.


In an NTUC annual survey on economic sentiments conducted between December 2023 and January 2024, almost 40 per cent of the 2,000 respondents feel they are more likely to lose their jobs in the next three months.


The figure is almost twice compared to a similar survey conducted by NTUC in 2023, where 25 per cent indicated the likelihood of losing their jobs.


Staying adaptable and competitive


Although Dr Yap shared the same sentiment on the business front, he said there are some positives for companies regarding retrenchments.


“Some of the retrenchments could be positive retrenchments because we need to actually shake up our industries to ensure that they are productive,” he explained.


He said employers need to take bold steps to transform businesses amidst the challenges posed by disruptions and the need to stay adaptable and competitive.


Dr Yap also said that while the Government has been proactive in helping companies be productive with the use of grants, he hopes the upcoming Budget will address the efficacy of those grants.


“This is a big thing when you are trying to transform the business and workforce. These changes don’t happen fast,” Dr Yap explained.


While he acknowledged that some companies look at government grants as fast payouts, he hopes that the misuse of grants does not slow down the application process or make it harder to apply for other companies.


Providing support for workers amidst uncertain times


While the outlook for workers is gloomy, Mr Ng said NTUC is already providing support to workers.


NTUC has developed programmes and initiatives to equip workers with the necessary skills and resources to remain employable.


For instance, over 1,700 Company Training Committees have been formed as of 31 October 2023, impacting over 123,000 workers.


NTUC also reiterated its call for the Government to provide more transitional support for displaced workers in the form of financial support or upskilling.


NTUC added that it hopes to enhance support for caregivers and older workers through flexible work arrangements, which will help workers juggle work and family commitments.


Mr Ng said: “We at NTUC understand the business environment. We understand they need some time to restructure. But let’s have a fair deal for the workers. Let us know early so NTUC may step in.


“The most important part is to help affected workers transition to a new job.”


He cited the example of Lazada’s business transformation, where NTUC stepped in to help workers whose jobs were affected.


Mr Ng also calls on workers to join NTUC so that the Labour Movement can provide the best outcomes.


Click here to sign up as an NTUC union member.