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Chun Sing: SMEs can tap labour movement for benefits, networking
SMALL and medium enterprises (SMEs) can now tap the labour movement to provide better welfare benefits for staff, as well as leverage its network to find suitable partners, said Chan Chun Sing, secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) on Monday.
He was speaking to the media following a closed-door dialogue session with companies from the Enterprise 50 (E50) Association, after the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the association and NTUC U SME, an initiative of the labour movement to address the issues and challenges that SMEs face.
Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said that the labour movement can link SMEs up with partners to help them in their digitalisation or internationalisation journey. He shared that earlier in the day, he had visited the Google office and learnt that the company was looking to partner some 250 SMEs here to leverage digital capabilities and go international.
Mr Chan cited that as an example of how the NTUC's network can help SMEs "transit through the current cyclical and structural challenges".
Aside from their connections, the labour movement is also looking to help SME employers enhance their welfare benefits for staff through the NTUC Club Corporate Membership Scheme.
The membership is open only to NTUC U SME partners that have signed MOUs with U SME, which make up 13,000 SMEs so far. More than 300,000 workers stand to benefit.
At the cost of S$10 a month or S$120 a year for each employee, the new scheme allows SME employers to purchase NTUC Club's corporate membership for their staff to enjoy privileges such as access to club facilities, participation in sports and recreational activities, promotions from various NTUC merchant partners, and apply for scholarships, bursaries and NTUC U Care vouchers.
SME staff also get to enjoy group insurance with coverage of up to S$30,000, and discounts and assistance on courses and training programmes. Meanwhile, both employers and employees get to participate in engagement and networking events as well as training and development programmes.
Yeo Guat Kwang, NTUC assistant director-general, and director of U SME, noted how SME owners say that they can't match the benefits that bigger companies provide their workers. "The bosses will see that at the end of the day, by extending benefits to workers, they will be able to better retain their workers."
He added that the labour movement would be organising more platforms for networking and sharing, such as sectoral roundtables to enable SMEs to discuss their challenges and solutions.
NTUC will also be arranging a series of advanced learning programmes for middle management of SMEs to hone their skills in areas such as service excellence, business leadership and human capital management.
Mr Yeo said that after subsidies, SME leaders could pay less than S$300 per worker. Already, one pilot class has started. The programme is only available through the 16 associations that signed MOUs with U SME. The E50 Association, with over 200 winners of the E50 Awards that is organised by KPMG and The Business Times, is one of them.
E50 Association chairman Susan Chong encourages members to join U SME's initiatives. Ms Chong, who is also CEO of sustainable packaging firm Greenpac, hopes that E50 companies could go beyond being the most enterprising to also the "fairest and best employers in town".