Cooperatives can offer freelancers more protection

Both Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi (Reconsider if Singapore's freelancers are "free agents"; April 12) and managing editor Fiona Chan (Dealing with a growing dependence on independent workers; March 26) are in agreement that Singapore will see more "unemployed" free agents in our economy of the future.

Both are concerned and champion "greater legal protection" for these independent workers. In reality, there are far more such independent workers in our economy today than has been pointed out.

This is because the four categories framed by McKinsey overlooked many legal "agents" in existing industries such as real estate, insurance and stockbroking. For example, I was made to understand that a share remisier is not an employee of a stockbroking firm.

Once, when my payment for a shares purchase was mishandled, I found out that the law protected the stockbroking firm but not the remisier, because he was contracted as an "agent" and not an "employee" of the firm.

This type of relationship is common in many industries, which means thousands of people are, in the real sense, unprotected "agents". This was so for my remisier, who was jailed for his misdeed.

Mr Chan did not think that a "freelancer association" proposed in Ms Chan's commentary was a solution. May I propose that perhaps a cooperative, like the National Trades Union Congress or the Reverse Co-operative, could be beneficial and offer protection to its members.

Freelancers can join cooperatives and participate and serve one another in areas like administration of retirement savings, sick leave coverage and job placements.

This would offer them better security through group strength.

Geoffrey Kung

Co-founder,  Reverse Co-operative Ltd
(Re-Engage Valuable Experienced Retirees to Serve Economy)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2017, with the headline 'Cooperatives can offer freelancers more protection'. Print Edition | Subscribe