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Saturday, 11 July 2009

Search: Unionised sector sees retrenchments fall in Q2: labour chief

SINGAPORE: The second quarter of this year saw only one—third of the number of lay—offs experienced in the previous quarter for the unionised sector, said labour movement chief Lim Swee Say.

And while this showed an improvement over the nearly 10,000 retrenched in the first quarter, Mr Lim said Singaporeans must not assume the downturn is over.

When the economic downturn hit Singapore, the labour movement set itself three targets, said NTUC Secretary—General Lim Swee Say. These were: to avoid record retrenchments, a high unemployment rate as in 2003 when SARS hit, and to be among the first to bounce back when the upturn returns.

Mr Lim said: "After six months of tripartite efforts, we believe we are on track. We cannot say for sure that by the end of this year, whether we would be able to succeed to achieve all these three targets. But we will continue to pursue our ’Upturn the Downturn’ strategy."

Mr Lim reminded Singaporeans that the downturn was not over yet despite recent reports that companies have started hiring.

A survey by consultancy firm Hudson said that for the first time since 2007, hiring expectations are up across the board.

The Singapore National Employers Federation also found from its regular quarterly surveys that the percentage of companies saying they were hiring had gone up from 20 to 25 per cent between March and June this year.

Stephen Lee, president, Singapore National Employers Federation, said: "Certainly this is a positive sign, but the question is how long will we be bottom—bumpy and how long will we stay at the bottom.

"Certainly there are no strong signs to indicate a fast recovery. So most companies are prepared that it will stay where it is and wait till the first quarter of next year to see whether it will pick up."

Mr Lim added: "Let us remember that not all industries will recover at the same time and at the same pace. So when we see some companies starting to recover and starting to hire workers, we should be happy, but don’t be too happy.

"We cannot keep retrenchment down to zero. But we can make sure that when the worker is retrenched, he does not necessary become an unemployed worker."

Hence the need to remain focused on the fundamentals, with cutting costs to save jobs being key.

Although there may be some signs of improvement in hiring, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation said it is not time for companies and workers to rest on their laurels.

They encourage both employers and workers to take full advantage of the various training and re—training schemes available to enhance the employability of their workers. — CNA/vm

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