COVID-19: PM Lee urges workers to ‘accept wage sacrifices’, companies to avoid job cuts

SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged workers to “accept wage sacrifices” to keep businesses going in the long term and employers to “make every effort” to keep their staff amid the severe economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an open economy, Singapore has felt the full brunt of the downturn due to the pandemic, Lee said in his May Day speech on Thursday (30 April)

Lee said the government has unveiled $60 billion worth of measures through the Unity, Resilience, and Solidarity Budgets to help workers and businesses cope with the downturn, and is also drawing on the national reserves.

Among them is the Job Support Scheme in which the government is paying three-quarters of the first $4,600 of wages in all sectors. But Lee added that businesses still have other costs to bear.

“And many workers will still see a pay cut, either because of lost overtime or direct wage reductions. This is unavoidable,” Lee said.

Companies must strive to help workers through this difficult period and should not drop workers at the first sign of trouble, Lee said.

“This way, workers will remember and return the kindness, serve loyally, and help their businesses survive. Companies will also be in a better position to rebuild, when the economy begins to recover,” he added.

On 21 April, Lee announced in a speech to the nation that the government would be extending the circuit breaker period by four more weeks to 1 June in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The authorities would also close more workplaces so that only the most essential services will remain open, Lee said then.

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