NTUC to push for law change to better represent freelancers

Representing freelancers is one of NTUC's priorities for 2021, said labour chief Ng Chee Meng.
Representing freelancers is one of NTUC's priorities for 2021, said labour chief Ng Chee Meng.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) will be pushing for laws to be amended so that it can better represent freelancers, who number about 200,000, said secretary-general Ng Chee Meng on Thursday (Feb 18).

Mr Ng told reporters that this was one of NTUC's priorities for 2021, as Singapore works toward recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

"This is a growing space of importance to NTUC because we find that in the Covid-19 aftermath, many of our freelancers really are quite vulnerable," said the labour chief.

Last December, NTUC formed two new groups to represent delivery riders and creative content professionals. They are the National Delivery Champions Association and the Visual, Audio, Creative Content Professionals Association (Singapore).

However, existing labour laws under the Industrial Relations Act - which regulates trade union functions in the employee-employer relationship - and the Trade Unions Act do not cover freelancers, as they are not considered employees.

Changes to the Acts would enable the labour movement to better represent this group of workers, who number about 200,000 - "a sizeable part of Singapore", said Mr Ng.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay plans to raise this at the upcoming debate on the Ministry of Manpower's budget in Parliament.

In addition, NTUC has been in contact with several overseas unions of self-employed persons and freelancers to study their models, it said in a statement.

"We are looking to innovate ourselves to better represent them and improve grievance handling," the statement said.

Other groups of workers that NTUC will be focusing on this year include professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) in their 40s to 60s, said Mr Ng.

A task force co-led by NTUC will give its recommendations on government policy as well as best practices for companies and training in the third quarter of this year.

Known as the PME Taskforce, it is headed by Mr Tay and Singapore National Employers Federation executive director Sim Gim Guan.

Older workers will also continue to be on NTUC's radar, said Mr Ng.

"We will work with the Government and employers to continue to look at the tripartite recommendations... to raise the retirement ages, the re-employment ages and also the CPF restoration, taking into account the impact of Covid-19," he added.

Mr Ng said the labour movement will also look at how it can better support women in the workplace through flexible work arrangements (FWA).

"This is, of course, going to be quite challenging... but Covid-19 ironically opened up possibilities of FWA... as we get used to working from home and setting up different structures and processes to promote productivity even while we may not be in the office," he said.