Singapore's National Wages Council to reconvene in August to tackle ‘profound impact’ of Covid-19

Given the challenging situation, MOM said the council has agreed to reconvene to update the guidelines to provide 'timely and relevant guidance' to employers by next month. — Reuters pic
Given the challenging situation, MOM said the council has agreed to reconvene to update the guidelines to provide 'timely and relevant guidance' to employers by next month. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, Aug 14 — The National Wages Council (NWC) will reconvene later this month to review the wage and employment guidelines it issued in March this year.

It aims to release the updated guidelines by September.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a press release today that since the March guidelines, which cover the period from April 1 this year to June 30 next year, were released, the labour market has “softened considerably”.

Citing its preliminary findings from the labour market advance release for the second quarter of this year, the ministry said there has been a significant decline in total employment.

Given the challenging situation, MOM said the council has agreed to reconvene to update the guidelines to provide “timely and relevant guidance” to employers by next month.

NWC’s chairman Peter Seah said that in light of the “profound impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy, companies and especially workers”, it is important the council reviews the challenges posed, and makes appropriate recommendations.

“In the past, the NWC with the tripartite partners have provided guidance to mitigate through very challenging times. It is timely now, for the NWC to meet again to do so,” he said.

Friday’s announcement by the MOM comes slightly over a week after Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in a Facebook post on Aug 3 that the council will be meeting for a second time this year.

This is the fourth time since being set up in 1972 that the council has been convened twice in the same year.

The previous occasions similarly came during other major economic crises in 1998, 2001 and 2009. 

The council, which comprises employer, employee and government representatives, typically meets to develop guidelines on wage and employment-related issues.

When it first met in March this year, the tripartite body recommended that employers should first reduce non-wage costs, and consider measures to use and manage excess manpower.

It also asked employers to tap on Government support to offset business and wage costs, and continue with business and workforce transformation.

As for employers that still found it necessary to trim wages to save jobs, they were advised to adopt a graduated approach and give special consideration to low-wage workers. 

Retrenchments, it had said then, should be a last resort and done in a responsible manner. — TODAY

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