SINGAPORE: All working people - including freelancers, migrant workers, as well as professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) - will soon be able to receive assistance and have their needs addressed by the labour movement.
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) updated its constitution on Wednesday (Nov 15) to grow its network and achieve this.
“In the past, the constitution perhaps could have been narrowly interpreted by some as just representing the rank and file workers using the Union as the only mechanism,” said NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing in a media briefing.
“What we’ve established today is that we are going to serve all working people in Singapore regardless of whether you call them PMETs, rank and file or so forth and it’s our duty to take care of them,” said Mr Chan.
“People move fluidly in between jobs and we shouldn't have this artificial divide as to who is considered rank and file, who is considered PMEs."
This comes on the back of technological disruptions that have led to the creation of new business models, employment arrangements and jobs that require the adoption of new skills.
The constitutional changes, along with nine papers charting the direction for NTUC going forward were supported by 97 per cent of the 410 delegates who attended and voted at the conference on Wednesday.
REPRESENTING THE VARIOUS WORKFORCE SEGMENTS
Beyond representing workers through the unions, NTUC has also previously set up other "limbs" to better represent the various segments of Singapore's workforce.
These include an initiative to support workers in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), one to support professionals, managers and executives (U Associates), another to support freelancers and the self-employed (U FSE) as well as one for migrant workers.
These are what NTUC collectively calls the U Network, which serves about 1.25 million Singaporeans.
For example, NTUC said it will help PMEs grow their professional networks and adopt skills to help them stay relevant and competitive.
In addition, it will lay out guidelines for freelancers and self-employed people’s concerns like insurance schemes and intellectual property protection.
As for migrant workers, NTUC will raise awareness of the community's rights and expand their networks of ground leaders to sense and manage ground sentiments.
As part of the conference, ministers from the various ministries also engaged in a dialogue session with tripartite partners, union leaders as well as partners from the U Network.
Among the topics discussed were issues such as the future of tripartism and ways to strengthen it amidst the rapidly changing environment, and the need to strengthen in-school training in the foundational years so that the younger generation are better prepared for work when they leave school.
Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said during the dialogue that he is aware of the over-emphasis on academic results in schools. He also spoke of concerns about the hiring criteria among companies in Singapore.
“When employers say 'I only look at your grades when I hire', now what I say is that 'the policy and practice must change'. Public service itself I think there are places where we can change. I’m working with some of the agencies (but) I cannot name them because I don’t want to put them under public pressure," Mr Ong said.
“Every single CEO here will tell you I don’t hire based on grades. However, most human resource (HR) departments hire based on grades so there’s a dissonance and I think we need to get the philosophy of the CEO down to the implementation at the HR front," he added.