NTUC aims for 1,000 company training committees in 3 years

They will reach 330,000 workers, helping them adopt technology; new types of unions also formed

The labour movement wants to be relevant to more workers as jobs transform.

To do so, it is getting more involved in company training so that workers can have better job prospects by being ready for new technology and business models.

It is also creating new types of unions to represent more workers, and is calling for the retirement and re-employment ages to be raised to 65 and 70 respectively, to help senior workers.

Labour chief Ng Chee Meng told the media that the aim is to have 1,000 company training committees within the next three years, reaching some 330,000 workers.

This will help workers accept and adopt technology more readily and help companies reap the benefits of their investments, he said.

He raised the idea during the Budget debate in February.

"There are companies that spend a few hundred million dollars on new technology capitalisation and then realise halfway through or, even worse, later, that the workers don't know how to use it, and the workers refuse to use it," said Mr Ng, who is National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

Unions will help companies put together training schedules and bring in expertise from educational institutes to design the training, as well as encourage companies to transform so that workers' jobs improve.

He and NTUC president Mary Liew said in a joint May Day message today that there are 18 committees so far.

Given the fourth industrial revolution, "workers must be trained in tandem, as Workers 4.0, to not only keep up with this transformation, but secure better work prospects", they said.

Their message comes in the 50th year since the Trade Union Seminar on Modernisation of the Labour Movement, where the NTUC and the Government began a more collaborative approach to industrial relations management together with businesses.

They also said that the labour movement is innovating to remain relevant and representative, as more workers are in professional, manager and executive (PME) roles.

For example, the Supply Chain Employees' Union was formed last year to represent workers of all levels, including PMEs, in the logistics industry, while the Singapore Bank Officers' Association was repositioned as the Banking and Financial Services Union to serve all workers in the industry and help them cope with the impact of disruption.

Mr Ng said the number of PME union members is rising, but not at a rate that is satisfactory.

"NTUC would like very much to assist PMEs. So we are looking at what value we can bring into this space for you that will cause you to join NTUC," he said.

It also recognises that cost of living remains a key concern for workers, and continues to push for better wages for low-wage workers, such as through the progressive wage model for lift technicians, which sets compulsory wage floors at different skill levels.

As for older workers, Mr Ng said NTUC wants to see the retirement and re-employment ages raised to 65 and 70 respectively, up from 62 and 67 now.

The Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers will make recommendations this year on raising the two ages, and on Central Provident Fund rates for such workers.

"We are conscious that businesses will be concerned about the impact on cost and this is where we will help our older workers upskill and reskill so that they can contribute productively if they so wish to continue working," said Mr Ng, adding that the best policy is one that can serve workers and businesses in a sustainable manner.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline NTUC aims for 1,000 company training committees in 3 years. Subscribe