Reserving some jobs for Singaporean PMEs among measures being considered: NTUC's Ng Chee Meng

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng giving an update on the work done so far by a PME task force, helmed by NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation, on April 29, 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Reserving certain jobs for Singaporeans is among the measures being considered to help address the concerns of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) in Singapore, said NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng on Thursday (April 29).

The National Trades Union Congress is also looking at designing a form of unemployment insurance scheme through NTUC Income, said Mr Ng.

This will help to support older PMEs when they are out of a job or are in the midst of upskilling themselves, he added.

NTUC also hopes to work closely with human resource professionals to better implement the Fair Consideration Framework and other government policies, he said.

Mr Ng was providing an update on the work done so far by a PME task force helmed by NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

Formed in October last year, the task force has contacted about 8,000 PMEs through surveys, engagement sessions and focus group discussions. It aims to submit its recommendations to the Government by the end of the year on how PMEs can be supported.

During these discussions, some PMEs suggested "ring-fencing" certain jobs, such as in HR, to allow local PMEs "to have the first call", said Mr Ng.

He said NTUC will "look seriously into how we can actually refine the thinking and suggest, maybe in time to come, certain possibilities of protecting Singaporean PME jobs where we have the skills". However, this will have to be done carefully, said Mr Ng.

"We have to be very, very selective and careful to make sure that we do not deprive ourselves of the best talents that can bring value to Singapore, but at the same time, take care of our local teams. That balance is a difficult one, but nevertheless, we need to try to do it," he added.

Another consideration is to work closely with HR practitioners to implement government policies, said Mr Ng.

This includes the Fair Consideration Framework, which was updated in January last year to include stiffer penalties for discriminatory hiring practices.

He added that NTUC is "not averse" to taking a step further and pushing for anti-discrimination laws, but it would like to work with employers first.

"It's really about getting the different options on the table that create better win-win possibilities for our employers and our workers," said Mr Ng.

"Legislation will be blunt - that means it will be across all the market... whereas if we can actually work with employers, like what we're doing with SNEF to articulate what are the best practices in different sectors or clusters, we can potentially find better outcomes," he added.

However, for NTUC to be able to represent PMEs' interests and speak up for them, more of these workers need to become union members, said Mr Ng.

Last month, 88 per cent of 1,000 PMEs polled by Milieu Survey said they wanted an organisation to speak up for them and the problems they face.

But nearly 60 per cent said they were not familiar with what NTUC does, and 43 per cent did not think they could, or were unsure about whether they could, join unions.

Among those polled, 75 per cent were non-union members.

The survey also revealed that the top concerns among PMEs were job security and a lack of employment opportunities and career progression. PMEs aged 40 and above were particularly concerned about age discrimination.

On Thursday, NTUC also released a May Day message by its president Mary Liew and Mr Ng.

Both said the labour movement will continue to champion the rights of workers, from PMEs to self-employed people, by working with the Government and employer groups.

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