Singapore

NTUC sets new target of 1.5 million members by 2030

Labour movement must innovate and digitalise to appeal to workers, says secretary-general

The labour movement has set what its chief calls a "bold, ambitious" target of reaching 1.5 million members by 2030, although it has yet to meet its previous target of one million members.

Union membership here has grown over the past four years, but it has tapered recently, and the labour movement must innovate and digitalise in order to stay relevant to workers, said NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng.

"In representation and relevance, the strategic performance indicator is membership numbers," he said at a media briefing yesterday after the close of the National Delegates' Conference.

"If unions don't have that kind of strength and presence, workers don't have that kind of protection."

The National Trades Union Congress has an "aspirational timeline" of reaching the target of 1.5 million members by 2025, but will be happy to reach it by 2030 given the uncertain environment, Mr Ng added.

The delegates' conference is held every four years for union leaders to discuss NTUC's plans and elect a new central committee. About 400 union leaders at the conference unanimously agreed on the strategy and membership target.

Yesterday, former Nominated Member of Parliament Mary Liew was also re-elected to lead NTUC as president.

The 56-year-old general secretary of the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union was elected in a closed-door meeting by a new 21-member central committee.

The new committee also elected Mr Ng as secretary-general.

The president and secretary-general are the two highest offices in NTUC.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, 47, was re-elected as deputy secretary-general.

MEMBERSHIP

Mr Patrick Tay, 47, an MP for West Coast GRC, and Ms Cham Hui Fong, 51, executive secretary of the Singapore Airport Terminal Services Workers' Union, were also re-elected as assistant secretaries-general.

There were 943,000 NTUC members last year, up from 896,200 in 2015. Though this is still shy of the target of one million members which NTUC had aimed to reach by 2015, it is about 30 per cent of the workforce here.This is higher than in many other countries.

Mr Ng, a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said the labour movement has to raise its "mindshare" among younger workers.

He outlined how as the workforce ages, new technologies take root and a greater share of workers become professionals, managers and executives, the labour movement must innovate in the way it runs three key areas: union business, membership and training.

Union of Security Employees general secretary Raymond Chin, 37, said options debated for the membership target ranged from 1.2 million to two million. Each union was asked to commit to a target, which was how the total was derived.

His union wants to attract more young people by changing the image of the security sector. "We want to show the youth that security work... uses technology too," he said.

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Employment