You’re dead wrong if you think that unions are only for the blue-collared workers. The truth is our Industrial Relations Act has been amended, and Singapore’s unions are able to represent Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs) with effect from April 2015.
Back in the old days, our workforce comprised largely of rank-and-file workers, and PMEs formed a very small part. The PMEs, back then, were seen as highly paid managers who did not need union protection. But as our society progresses and as our population gets more educated, most of us are now in PME jobs. In fact, labour chief Ng Chee Meng said PMEs now make up the majority of our workforce at about 60 per cent.
In a media sharing session today (29th April 2021) held in conjunction with NTUC’s May Day celebrations, NTUC’s secretary-general Ng Chee Meng made clear that the labour movement wants to send a strong signal out to the PMEs to sign up as union members. He wants PMEs to know that Singapore’s unions are able to represent PMEs to make sure that their employment rights are protected as well.
Since the formation of the NTUC-SNEF PME Taskforce in October 2020, NTUC has been surveying and engaging PMEs across different age groups to have a better and deeper understanding of their aspirations, concerns and needs. Through a variety of surveys, engagement sessions and focus group discussions, NTUC has reached out to close to 8,000 PMEs.
During the media sharing session, Ng Chee Meng said, “What we found out reveals their key concerns, especially the mature PME group aged between 40s and 60s. While PMEs want and need help, many do not know that NTUC can help them.”
Top concerns of PMEs: Job Security and Lack of Employment Opportunities
Interestingly, although hardly surprising, these extensive ground engagement and feedback sessions with 8,000 PMEs revealed that PMEs’ top concerns have shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the recent past, PMEs used to be more concerned with career progression and skills upskilling, but these top concerns have now evolved. In particular, top three concerns for the vulnerable PMEs (40s and above) were related to the following:
• Job security
• Lack of employment opportunities
• Lack of career progression
Many of these older PMEs also attribute their (higher) age as a key disadvantage. The labour chief also made reference to an opinion piece on ageism that ex-diplomat Tommy Koh wrote for the Straits Times today.
More PMEs need to join the unions to be better represented and protected
Repeated calls were made during the media sharing session for more PMEs to join the unions for a stronger and more representative voice. Ng Chee Meng stressed on the need to further grow NTUC’s PME base so that the unions can effectively represent and protect these PMEs and address the concerns and resolve the issues close to their heart at the workplace.
His message cannot get any more plainer than this,
“If I have no members, I cannot represent you in the company, I cannot represent you legally.”
Currently, the NTUC represents about 30 per cent of the Singapore workforce. Many of its programmes and support initiatives are only available for union members.
How can NTUC help?
In efforts to help PMEs, labour chief also shared interesting ideas like ring-fencing jobs and even offering unemployment insurance through its social enterprise INCOME as a form of transitionary support.
“For example, stemming from the PMEs’ key concerns, our unions can work closer with HR practitioners to improve HR standards to ensure fair employment and job security for our mature PMEs.”
“We can try to ear mark certain jobs or jobs in certain sectors to secure more employment opportunities for mature PMEs.”
“We can even explore ways to provide a safety net in some form of a transitionary support for those who are involuntarily unemployed as the sudden loss of jobs seem to impact mature PMEs more, and as they found it harder and took longer to find employment.”
So yes, we hear him loud and clear that the labour movement can only effectively represent and protect workers with a larger base and louder voice, you can sign up as a union member here.