Unionised firms rehiring older workers beyond 65 nearly double from last year

NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How speaking with Madam Sng Boon Hui (centre), who works in manufacturing and Mr Lim Yew Huat (right), chief captain of SBS Transit.
NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How speaking with Madam Sng Boon Hui (centre), who works in manufacturing and Mr Lim Yew Huat (right), chief captain of SBS Transit.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

SINGAPORE - With less than a year to go before a new re-employment law kicks in, unionised companies are pulling ahead of the pack, with nearly three-quarters already rehiring older workers beyond age 65.

The number of unionised companies doing this has nearly doubled from a year ago, the labour movement said on Monday (Aug 8).

The Government announced in April that the re-employment age would be raised from 65 to 67 from July 1, 2017.

Now, companies are obliged by law to offer eligible workers re-employment when they turn 62, until they are 65.

Among the 1,400 unionised firms, 1,016 are keeping older workers on beyond 65, up from 585 last year.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How called this "very good progress".

Speaking at an NTUC roadshow at Chevron House on Monday, he said: "We have a small workforce in Singapore. Companies are saying if they want to expand, it is not easy to find manpower, let alone experienced manpower.

"In other countries, they have found that if they lose mature workers to early retirement, it is not easy to find good replacements."

He said he expected unionised companies to be ahead of non-unionised ones in preparations for the new law.

But while NTUC's efforts will focus first and foremost on firms in the union fold, he added: "We are more than happy to advise non-unionised companies. This is a whole-of-country effort."

Of the 1,016 unionised companies who re-employ beyond age 65, 183 had a written policy to re-employ up to 67. This was up from 102 last year.

Asked why most companies were still rehiring on an ad hoc basis instead of setting down re-employment policies in writing, Mr Heng said: "Perhaps they want to get more guidance and more information to do it right."

He said he hoped that a new handbook on re-employment, which NTUC launched on Monday, would help more companies to "do it early, and do it right".

The book was given out at Monday's roadshow, which was attended by an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people. It will also be made available to all union leaders and human resources officers in all unionised companies.

SBS chief bus captain Lim Yew Huat said he is glad to be able to keep his job even as he turns 65 this year. Besides driving, he also serves as a mentor to younger bus captains and helps to familiarise them with routes.

He hopes to remain in his role until he is 70. He said: "I'm very happy to keep working, and that I continue to be paid the wages of a chief bus captain."