NTUC weighs forming organised body to help PMEs

About 58 per cent of locals are in jobs classified as professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The labour movement is looking at creating an organised body to protect the interests of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond, said labour chief Ng Chee Meng.

This comes amid concerns about job prospects for middle-aged PMEs, who may have successful careers but have reached a stage in which they are more vulnerable.

"No stone will be left unturned but, ultimately, it must be some form of organised body to bring them in so that we can actually have meaningful and consistent, sustained engagement to build a relationship," he said in an interview with The Straits Times on Thursday.

He added that the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) wants to start the process of protecting PMEs in a sustainable way, "not a militant way of just flexing muscles and demanding and advocating".

It also wants to provide better support for displaced PMEs through understanding their circumstances, said Mr Ng, who is NTUC's secretary-general.

Last year, the labour movement made a commitment to expand its efforts in the PME and small and medium-sized enterprises spaces.

About 58 per cent of locals - Singaporeans and permanent residents - are in jobs classified as professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

PMEs can receive union representation. A change in the Industrial Relations Act in 2015 allowed rank-and-file unions to represent PMEs in collective bargaining, and let unions help older PMEs facing individual re-employment disputes after turning 62.

There are also PME unions such as the Port Officers' Union and the Air Transport Executive Staff Union.

Mr Ng said that generally, interest in joining unions has grown as the pandemic roils the labour market.

NTUC told ST yesterday that it now has 950,000 members. It had 943,000 in 2018.

Mr Ng said NTUC has also helped non-unionised workers such as tour guides.

It told the Government that the group is without income, with the drying up of tourism.

It prompted the creation of programmes such as the Self-employed Person Income Relief Scheme.

Mr Ng added that non-unionised employees of companies which are not unionised can approach the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management for advice and mediation services.

In some instances, where there are enough workers in a non-unionised company seeking help from a union, the union can make the case to the company to give it direct recognition so that it can represent the workers.

This happened last year when travel retailer DFS Group abruptly retrenched staff and gave them severance packages that were below market norms.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2020, with the headline NTUC weighs forming organised body to help PMEs. Subscribe