The Business Times

NTUC to engage 20,000 people through feedback exercise

Sharon See
Published Fri, Aug 12, 2022 · 05:00 AM

THE labour movement is planning to engage some 20,000 people in a feedback-gathering exercise that it hopes can pave the way in shaping Singapore’s social compact around work and employment.

The exercise, titled #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations, was launched by labour chief Ng Chee Meng on Thursday (Aug 11) evening at a closed-door dialogue for over 100 union leaders.

In a letter addressed to all workers in Singapore released on Friday, Ng, who is secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said there are 3 big questions at the heart of the exercise.

The first is how to enable workers to upgrade their skills and compete in the new economic environment that faces the risk of a Covid-19 resurgence while being squeezed by supply chain disruptions exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war.

“We want to ensure workers have the financial support they need, because the harsh truth is that many workers may face involuntary retrenchment,” Ng said, alluding to the possibility of unemployment support.

“The key question is how Singapore should provide stronger financial support for our job-seekers to enable them to tide over a difficult period during their job search in a manner that rewards their strong work ethic,” he noted, adding that many professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) appear to support this idea based on earlier engagements.


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The second question is how to give stronger assurances to support workers as their life needs evolve; one area is how aged caregiving can be better supported, said Ng.

He added that while NTUC remains committed to finding ways to help mature workers participate in meaningful roles as industries transform, it also wants to hear how workers can be assured of basic retirement adequacy.

The third question is about protecting vulnerable workers.

Ng said the labour movement has worked with partners to implement the progressive wage model and while it has already been rolled out in some sectors, the question is whether there is potential for it to cover more sectors, companies and even middle-income jobs.

He noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a trial and test for Singaporeans, who have emerged stronger through the crisis.

In an earlier media briefing, the labour chief said: “We know that Singapore will continue to be tested, given all the different advances in technologies and the economic world will continue to evolve post-Covid, and that means greater uncertainty.”

In the job space, Ng said there is likely to be greater “job polarisation” that can potentially widen income inequalities if the labour movement does not take “active measures” to champion the interests of people.

The NTUC is in the midst of refreshing its business model in the way forward to see how it can answer the needs of a “very different” working class in Singapore, he added.

Noting that the proportion of PMEs versus rank-and-file workers will reach 60:40 in a few years, Ng said: “NTUC has been a traditional champion for the blue-collar workers, but as the workforce shifts, NTUC knows that we will have to innovate and refresh our compact with a shifting working class of Singaporeans.”

This is why NTUC started a PME taskforce and has begun to engage youths in the past year, the labour chief said.

The conversations will be done in 3 phases involving surveys, focus group discussions, workshops and forums.

In the final phase, NTUC is planning to release recommendations based on earlier findings by mid-2023. It will also involve working with the Republic’s fourth-generation leaders through the parallel Forward Singapore exercise.

“This will be an autonomous, independent effort by the NTUC to listen closely and listen deeply to the needs of the working people so that we can have a voice to plug into the larger social compact and represent their interests clearly and accurately,” said Ng.

“Hopefully, in some way, we’ll fit into the larger social compact discussion that the government is doing through Forward Singapore.”



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