NTUC labouring to get millionth member

Movement widening net to achieve decade-long target by December even as membership surpasses 888,000

The labour movement faces an uphill task if it is to hit its decade-long goal of having one million members by the end of this year.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said yesterday it now has more than 888,000 members.

A year ago it had 830,000 members, including both unionised workers and non-union-related members, such as those in youth group nEbO.

However, the NTUC said, membership growth in the past year has been "healthy" with a 7 per cent increase. The still-distant target number of one million comprises both blue- and white-collar workers and members from nEbO.

The labour movement, which has been trying to attract white-collar workers, now has more than 259,000 professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who are Singaporeans and permanent residents - a 9 per cent rise on last year.

It attributed the increase in white-collar membership to the launch of the U Associate Programme and Future Leaders Programme which "cater to the specific needs of PMEs".

For example, U Associate links the labour movement with professional associations such as the Singapore Human Resources Institute and Institution of Engineers Singapore so their members automatically become NTUC members.

By end of September, there will be 20 U Associate partners.

In addition, 106 new companies were unionised last year - the highest number to have done so within a year. Currently, there are 1,630 unionised companies.

To get more sign-ups, NTUC plans to work with industry bodies such as the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises. It also set up the U SME Secretariat last year to talk to small and medium-sized businesses through seminars and dialogue sessions. More than 200 firms have been involved so far.

According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, more than 70 per cent of the local workforce is employed in these companies.

Mr Vivek Kumar, secretary of the NTUC Membership Council, said that the labour movement will work on getting more sign-ups.

"Ultimately, we want to ensure that our working people are well taken care of."

More than 1,000 members celebrated NTUC's membership peak at the Universal Studios Singapore on Sentosa on Friday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2015, with the headline 'NTUC labouring to get millionth member'. Print Edition | Subscribe