NTUC moves to embrace more workers and stay relevant, Chan Chun Sing says ahead of May Day

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing speaking at a media briefing on April 25, 2017.
Labour chief Chan Chun Sing speaking at a media briefing on April 25, 2017.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
NTUC Secretary-general Chan Chun Sing explaining NTUC's strategy to strengthen its relevance to working people in this time of change, at NTUC Centre on April 25, 2017.
NTUC Secretary-general Chan Chun Sing explaining NTUC's strategy to strengthen its relevance to working people in this time of change, at NTUC Centre on April 25, 2017.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
NTUC Secretary-general Chan Chun Sing explaining NTUC's strategy to strengthen its relevance to working people in this time of change, at NTUC Centre on April 25, 2017.
NTUC Secretary-general Chan Chun Sing explaining NTUC's strategy to strengthen its relevance to working people in this time of change, at NTUC Centre on April 25, 2017.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The labour movement is expanding the scope of its role by opening up its activities and services to non-union members, in a move to look after the interest and welfare of as many workers in Singapore as possible.

This means non-members can, for instance, attend training courses on a "pay per use" basis, instead of first having to be a union member and pay monthly dues to use its range of services.

This new model, labour chief Chan Chun Sing said on Tuesday (April 25), will give NTUC greater flexibility in representing the Singapore workforce at a time when technology is disrupting the marketplace and changing the nature of employment.

The "pay per use" model is available to workers of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who are members of professional bodies.

This latest shift is part of a continuing NTUC effort to embrace more groups of workers into its fold, as it reaches out to the 2.3 million resident workers in Singapore.

Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, gave this update of the labour movement's various initiatives at a media briefing on Tuesday ahead of this year's May Day celebrations.

The initiatives in recent years include measures to help SME workers via their bosses, and PMEs though their professional bodies.

Already, 59 professional bodies have tied up with the NTUC through its U Associate scheme, exceeding the 58 unions affiliated to it, he noted.

NTUC has also tied up with bodies representing freelance workers, as well as offer services to the 1.5 million foreign workers and maids through the Migrant Workers' Centre and Centre for Domestic Employees that it had formed.

"We are not fixated on one limb (of representing workers through unions)," he said.

Its various "limbs" allow the NTUC to serve more workers, going beyond the traditional model of workers joining unions for protection and collective bargaining, he added.

Said Mr Chan: "The only way we can truly live up to being a strong and relevant labour movement is if we can adequately represent the majority of the workforce. This is something we have been (doing) and will continue to do."

The NTUC last reported in October 2015 that it had 888,000 union members. Today, it said the labour movement through its network serves over 1.25 million Singaporeans.

Besides representing workers, the NTUC and its social enterprises also want to expand its activities to stay relevant.

It includes widening its training and career services for workers, and its social enterprises exploring new services such as healthcare and eldercare.

"What we want is for our working people to develop a relationship with the labour movement, from before they begin work, whilst they're working, when they are transitioning between careers, and all the way until they retire," he wrote in a blog post on the NTUC's website.

The May Day celebrations start on Monday (May 1) when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivers his annual May Day Rally speech.

The May Day Dinner, at which awards are presented to people who have contributed to the labour movement, will not be held this year. Instead, the awards will be presented on May 13.