NTUC amends its Constitution to represent people like managers and freelancers

NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing addressing some 1000 unionists, company officials and government officials at a dialogue with ministers on Nov 15, 2017.
NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing addressing some 1000 unionists, company officials and government officials at a dialogue with ministers on Nov 15, 2017. PHOTO: NTUC

SINGAPORE - More working people in different jobs - from managers to freelancers - can expect help from the labour movement. The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) wants to use more services and groupings to represent "all working people", and updated its Constitution on Wednesday (Nov 15) to formalise this.

While it has already been reaching out to more groups of workers like professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) in recent years, the previous Constitution could have been narrowly interpreted as covering the representation of only rank and file workers using unions as the only mechanism, said NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing at a media briefing.

But the more diverse economic landscape now means working people are on a continuum, he said.

"In today's world, in our Singapore system of continuous meritocracy, actually people move fluidly in between jobs and we shouldn't have this artificial divide as to who is considered rank and file, who is considered PMEs. We also shouldn't have the artificial divide where the union is the only mechanism to organise and represent workers," he said.

Mr Chan noted that many unions today also include PMEs, though they may receive different services according to the laws regulating collective bargaining.

Besides nearly 60 unions, NTUC also has more than 60 U Associates - which are professional associations - as well as a unit for freelancers and self-employed people (U FSE), a unit for small and medium enterprises and groups helping migrant workers.

NTUC said the constitutional changes, along with nine papers charting the direction for the organisation going forward, were supported by about 97 per cent of the 410 delegates who voted at a biennial conference on Wednesday.

NTUC will work on, among other things, helping PMEs expand their professional networks and gain skills to stay competitive, establishing industry standards and fair practices for freelancers and self-employed people, such as insurance schemes, and raising awareness of migrant workers' rights.

It is also bringing unions and U Associates together in 23 clusters corresponding to the industry transformation maps being launched to guide developments in key industries, for them to see how to help workers in specific jobs.

These clusters include the oil, petrochemical, energy and chemical cluster, healthcare cluster and food and beverage cluster. For example, the United Workers of Petroleum Industry is working together with chemical engineers, while the Food, Drinks and Allied Workers Union is working with food scientists.

Freelance emcee and presenter Ross Sarpani, 47, joined the U FSE network about two years ago through the group he co-founded - Singapore Talent, Artistes and Resources (Star) association.

He said U FSE has organised workshops, seminars and fairs which his members can attend, and has linked the association with the correct government agencies to run initiatives like SGSecure training. The events open up avenues for networking, which is crucial in their industry, he said.

After the conference at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday, about 1,000 unionists, company officials and government officials attended a dialogue with Mr Chan and five other Cabinet ministers. They discussed issues such as tripartism, training and continuous education, and the role of NTUC's social enterprises.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said tripartism will become even more important as Singapore tries to avoid economic growth which does not add jobs or employment, because the Government, employers and NTUC will need to work together to help workers improve and find good jobs.