NTUC urges building a 'Singaporean core of workers'

THE labour movement has called on the Government to review the criteria for Employment Passes, and to distinguish between companies committed to hiring Singaporeans and those that are not.

"This is to ensure our workers have fair opportunities at their workplaces. At the same time, the Government should tighten enforcement on companies that show no intent to develop a Singaporean core of workers," the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said yesterday.

This review should meet the varied needs of industries while giving them incentive to build a strong Singaporean core of workers, NTUC added in its recommendations for Budget 2016, which it submitted to the Finance Ministry yesterday.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will deliver the Budget statement in Parliament on March 24.

NTUC also called for better protection of contract and low-wage workers in its recommendations based on four themes: Strengthening the Singaporean Core, improving productivity, enhancing training and skills upgrading, and improving retirement adequacy.

On retirement, it suggested that the Government explore changing the single retirement age to a "more variegated" one beyond 62 for different industries, to allow workers who can stay in employment to do so.

To help local contract workers, it proposed a mandatory limit to the short-term contract extensions a worker is given.

This way, employers are obliged to permanently hire workers after a certain number of extensions.

It also urged the Government to make it illegal for employers to require a one-day break in between contracts to prevent contract employees from getting benefits for long service.

For low-wage workers, NTUC recommended reviewing the Workfare Income Supplement criteria to ensure it continues to target all workers at the bottom 20 per cent of the wage ladder.

This is to account for incomes growing over time, and to base the criteria on basic wages rather than gross wages, which are inflated by overtime pay.

NTUC also suggested that the unused Skills Future Credits of workers who are too ill, or who cannot use them for other reasons, be moved to their Medisave accounts instead.

It also offered to provide career guidance counsellors to help match workers to courses and relevant job opportunities.

"This is to help ameliorate possible structural unemployment through mismatched skills and jobs," it said.

Singapore International Chamber of Commerce chief executive Victor Mills said it should not be assumed that there are Singaporeans who want to work in every sector.

"It is a great idea to develop a strong Singaporean core but we may not be able to have that in every sector."


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