Union gives $3m to help cut shipping firms' costs

Money to be used for lodgings, medical and training of seamen over two years

A seamen's union will hand out $3 million in the next two years to help shipping companies reduce operating expenses as they navigate the turbulent world economy.

The money from the Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS) will be channelled to existing schemes that subsidise the accommodation, medical and training needs of seafarers.

These programmes are run by SOS, which is a global maritime union set up in 1971 that is affiliated to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

"Workers are doing their part through the union to help companies through the tough times," Mr Kam Soon Huat, general secretary of SOS, told The Straits Times.

"It's not a very big sum, but hopefully this gesture will help members remain employed and continue to get training," he added.

SOS has over 20,000 members.

HELPING FIRMS KEEP JOBS

Workers are doing their part through the union to help companies through the tough times. It's not a very big sum, but hopefully this gesture will help members remain employed and continue to get training.

MR KAM SOON HUAT, general secretary of SOS, on the $3 million aid.

It is the second NTUC affiliate to lend shipping companies a hand in trying times for the shipping industry. Last week, the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union said it will subsidise 6,000 hotel rooms for seamen for the next two years at a cost of $300,000.

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing announced the new aid at the SOS' 45th anniversary celebrations at Resorts World Convention Centre last night. He said: "The Government, the industry and the labour movement will do what we can to not only preserve the status of Singapore as a global maritime hub, but more importantly, also grow our capabilities."

The assistance will be available from next year, with $1 million given as vouchers to the companies for use at Seacare Hotel, which is owned by the union.

The vouchers can pay for lodgings or the use of hotel facilities for workshops and corporate events.

The $1 million is on top of vouchers worth $250,000 given yearly for accommodation at the hotel.

Union members will also get eight nights of free stay a year at any of the eight SOS-owned hotels around the world, up from five nights. These are the Seacare Hotel here, Citin Seacare Hotel in Kuala Lumpur and six other hotels in the United Kingdom: Cardiff, Cheltenham, Eastbourne, Manchester, Inverness and Leeds.

The remaining $2 million will be split between the union's medical and training schemes, with more details to be announced next year.

Last night, the Seacare Co-operative, founded by SOS and NTUC, also marked its 22nd anniversary.

The co-op helps local seamen who are displaced from their jobs through training grants, work opportunities and investments.

The shipping industry contributes 7 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product and employs more than 170,000 workers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2016, with the headline 'Union gives $3m to help cut shipping firms' costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe