The global COVID-19 outbreak shook the world. It pervaded many economies and industries, affecting jobs and daily lives. When faced with news of the pandemic, SMOU stepped forward to lend a helping hand to our members, the maritime community and beyond.
Maritime Industry and Tripartite Efforts
The pervasive nature of the COVID-19 situation has definitely not spared the maritime industry and its players. To provide support and alleviate the burden that the outbreak has brought, tripartite partners came together to put in place financial offsets and levy waivers for companies with workers affected by the outbreak. Advisories for appropriate workplace measures and the calling-off of large scale events have also been implemented to reduce community spread of the virus.
When the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, countries all over the world began shutting down their borders, posing challenges to seafaring crew changes. In line with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) circular, SMOU supported companies with collective agreements by not challenging extension of contracts of up to one month, as we continued to monitor the situation.
Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) also empathised with the COVID-19 situation and the challenges that may arise from it. In that respect, MPA provisioned for owners and managers of Singapore-registered ships (SRS) with timely repatriation of seafarers. Extensions of deadlines were also given to ship owners and managers amidst the situation of uncertainty. These include the extension of sea service beyond contract period, qualification revalidation deadline, mandatory surveys, audits and expiry of statutory certificates.
In the wake of the situation, SMOU General Secretary Mary Liew reached out to sea-going members to inform that the union is doing what they can, and that arrangements are being made at the Government level to address the ongoing issues. Seafarers were also invited to contact the Industrial Relations team for any assistance they might need, and encouraged to exercise flexibility with their contractual periods.
It was truly all hands on deck for the maritime industry to combat the pandemic, and to show concern and compassion for those at the frontline, as well as those that are directly affected by the unfortunate situation.
SMOU Care Pack Distribution
With soaring demand for essential items such as masks and hand sanitisers during this period, our colleagues at SMOU tirelessly sourced for these items to put together personalised SMOU care packs for various groups of people. We wanted to show our appreciation and encouragement to workers in Singapore that were supporting society even during the outbreak by providing essential items to protect their health as they keep daily operations running.
To our Adopted Charities and the Community
SMOU Care Packs were extended to healthcare workers, cleaners, security officers, as well as taxi and private-hire drivers who signed up to transport healthcare workers during this period.
SMOU also delivered almost 200 packages to staff of care-giving institutions including NTUC Health (Jurong West), SMOU-adopted nursing home – Henderson Home, and SMOU-adopted child care centre – My First Skool (Jalan Sultan Centre). SMOU hopes that the care packs can help staff stay safe during the outbreak.
Upon receiving the SMOU care packs, staff from NTUC Health (Jurong West) expressed their heartfelt thanks to SMOU for the timely and thoughtful gifts. Many pointed out the hand creams as being one of the highly appreciated items, with nurses having dry hands from frequent washing and sanitisation. Even the granola snack bar came in helpful for those that had little time to eat between work shifts.
Home Visits to Senior Members
Over the past few months, as the pandemic spread across the globe, figures have shown that senior citizens are the most vulnerable demographic of the population. Knowing that many seniors will face difficulty obtaining essential preventive supplies, SMOU took the time to visit some of our senior members to deliver the care packs. The packs will help our senior members stay safe and protect them from the virus.
To care for the other seniors in our office’s vicinity, SMOU also gave out hand sanitisers to seniors in the Jalan Besar community.
Care Pack Preparation
Behind the scenes, we had many hands in the background working across hours to get the packs ready. It was heartening to see the SMOU Executive Committee, Young SMOU members and Tripartite Maritime Training Award Cadets come forward during this time of crisis to pitch in and help put together the SMOU care packs.
Preventive Measures at SMOU
Back at home ground, SMOU has also been doing our due diligence to adhere to national preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19. Since the SMOU Lunar New Year and Hong Bao 2020 event in January when the COVID-19 outbreak started to gain global attention, SMOU had put in place measures to prevent the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of guests. Initiatives include temperature taking, travel declaration of guests, and the provision of hand sanitisers to ensure personal hygiene. Advisories were also sent to members beforehand to stay at home if they were feeling unwell, or had travelled to mainland China in the past 14 days.
These measures were also extended to member events such as the SMOU Golf League.
Visitors that came to the Wavelink Building were also required to have their temperature taken and travel history declared, to ensure the health and safety of other visiting members and SMOU staff.
Notices, in line with Ministry of Health’s advisories were strategically placed at touch points of the SMOU office to inform and remind members and guests of the measures in place due to the COVID-19 situation. These notices have been, and will continue to be regularly reviewed and updated as the situation evolves, to ensure that visitors are informed of the latest measures taken.
The containment of the coronavirus has been a worldwide effort, with impact ranging from minor inconveniences to economic repercussions. We may not know how long it will be before things to go back to normal. But with everyone taking on personal social responsibility and helping one another, we will definitely overcome this together!