Helping to prepare transport workers for disruption

In a move that could have a global impact, the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute here is partnering the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) in studying the impact of disruption on transport workers.

All ITF members - which comprise about 700 transport unions, representing more than 16 million transport workers from 150 countries - will potentially benefit from the research and training, said a spokesman for the federation.

The institute - a labour education and training centre run by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) - will sign an agreement this week with the ITF to jointly research and suggest how workers in various transport sectors can upgrade their skills.

The two will partner each other for an initial period of 18 months, during which the institute will provide training on better understanding the impact of disruption affecting transport workers.

Transport workers are facing unique challenges as the industry "changes beyond all recognition", said ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton.

"We must ensure that the future of work in transport is good jobs with good conditions for all. But at the same time, transport workers must be ready for the huge changes that are coming in their sector," he said, adding that the agreement would help in working towards this.

The signing is being held in conjunction with the 44th Congress of the ITF, which held its opening ceremony at the Suntec convention centre yesterday.

More than 2,300 participants are attending the week-long event being held in South-east Asia for the first time in ITF's 122-year history. Among the issues being discussed is the impact of digitalisation in reshaping the global transport industry.

Speaking at the opening ceremony yesterday, NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said technological disruption could be "harvested" to bring great progress and economic opportunities.

Mr Ng, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said the labour movement here wants to ensure workers are prepared for Industry 4.0, a term referring to the digitalisation of industry.

But workers here must upgrade themselves to become more adaptive, as well as to gain the skills necessary for new jobs and new ways of working.

"Ultimately, Industry 4.0 is only meaningful if it benefits both our companies and our workers, with our workers being able to transit into better jobs and achieve better wages... and ultimately, enjoy better lives with their families," said the labour chief.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2018, with the headline 'Helping to prepare transport workers for disruption'. Print Edition | Subscribe