NTUC expansion essential amid change
Union evolving, increasing healthcare and elder care services, says labour chief
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) used to be synonymous with blue-collar workers and heartland supermarkets.
But it has had to evolve to stay relevant amid disruptive changes, said labour chief Chan Chun Sing yesterday.
In a media briefing ahead of May Day, Mr Chan said the union used to be the "primary, if not only, mechanism" used to reach out to the workers.
Now, NTUC has five "complementary limbs", consisting of the traditional unions - there are 58 affiliated unions and two associations that represent workers through collective bargaining and on issues such as wrongful dismissals and retrenchments benefits - and four other units:
- U Associates, which address the needs of white-collar professionals through guilds and associations. There are currently 59 U Associates, and NTUC is working with them to create and develop relevant programmes that will allow professionals to grow in their careers.
- U SME, which focuses on small and medium businesses (SMEs) that might not be unionised. NTUC earlier this month launched a U SME Corporate Membership, where SME bosses pay $120 a year a member for them and their workers to enjoy welfare benefits.
- U FSE, which supports about 45,000 freelancers and self-employed individuals. U Startup was recently launched to support local start-ups.
- Migrant Workers' Centre and Centre for Domestic Employees for foreign workers here.
The labour movement, through its U Network, serves more than 1.25 million Singaporeans today, said NTUC.
Mr Chan outlined the challenges facing the workforce.
He said: "We will see more economic cycles, and the economic cycles tend to be sharper, which means the fluctuations will be bigger... What it means for the average worker is that unlike the past, when we can expect to have one career over our entire lifetime... Now we are likely to see more frequent career changes."
Mr Chan added that the labour movement is concerned about how workers can transit between careers, how to take care of the financial and emotional needs of workers who are between jobs and how to ensure adequate retirement planning.
In a blog post yesterday, Mr Chan also highlighted the need for NTUC's social enterprises, such as FairPrice and Income, to stay relevant amid technological disruptions and help "our working people stretch their hard-earned dollar".
NTUC will also be looking into expanding services in healthcare and elder care.
In a doorstop interview yesterday, Mr Chan said: "We think that healthcare and elder care will be pressure points in time to come. (They) might be the groceries of the future, whereby it becomes the essential services we want people to be able to access easily and at an affordable price."