TL;DR – Rest & Recreation? Rock & Roll?
NTUC wants to provide R and R for Singaporean workers. It believes that doing so will be the best way to provide welfare and benefit for Singaporean workers.
Wait. In case you think R and R means “rest” and “relax”, you’ll be very wrong. After all, NTUC is run by a former army general. Do you think that his idea of welfare is to provide “rest” and “relax” to those under his charge? No way.
As they say in the Army, the best care for soldiers is tough training. Why? Because more sweat in peace means less blood in war. And less blood in war means a better chance of making it through the battle and getting home to our loved ones. That is the best care for soldiers.
And it seems that is more or less what Mr Chan Chun Sing, former Chief-of-Army, who’s currently the Secretary-General of NTUC, wants to do. He wants to make NTUC more representative of and relevant for all Singaporean workers.
The ultimate aim is to provide what he thinks is the best welfare for workers – training, upgrading, and career opportunities – so that they can stay employed and earn better salaries.
NTUC cannot just be about unions
To provide that form of best welfare for workers, it seems that the NTUC must be unusual. It cannot just stay being a labour movement made up of unions. How does that work? What else can it be if it’s not just made up of unions? And why?
Because things are changing faster than ever. New business models keep coming up. As a result, some old businesses die. These new business models often create new jobs that need people with new skills. Some times, these new business models create new forms of employment.
As Mr Chan puts it in his blog post released yesterday:
“Gone are the days when one person would be in one job, or two, for an entire lifetime. Increasingly, working people will experience frequent transitions in their employment lifecycles. With greater employment mobility, skills and training, a working person may be in a big company today, an SME tomorrow, and opt to go freelance in the near future.”
To keep up with the pace of changes, the NTUC must be even more unusual and not just be about unions. Instead, it should turn into something like an octopus.
Adding “limbs” to be more representative
Not quite eight limbs… yet. But NTUC is adding another four “limbs” to its current “limb” of the unions. These five limbs are:
- Unions – to continue representing workers
- U Associates – to support professionals, managers and executives
- U SME – to support workers in small- and medium-sized enterprises
- U FSE – to support freelancers and the self-employed
- Migrant Workers/Domestic Employees – to support migrant workers and domestic employees
Through these five complementary limbs, NTUC aims to represent the majority, if not all, of Singapore’s workforce.
Adding products and services to stay relevant
Being representative of more workers isn’t enough. NTUC also wants to be able to provide relevant products and services for the workers they represent. According to Mr Chan, this is what NTUC wants to do:
“What we want is for our working people to develop a relationship with the Labour Movement, from before they begin work, whilst they’re working, when they are transitioning between careers, and all the way until they retire.”
An example is the U Career Network that NTUC has set up, and it will start with students in 14 institutes of higher learning and all through their working lives. Yes, collaborating with universities and polytechnics, the U Career Network aims to give the not-yet-employed of today (i.e. the students) the best chance for jobs of tomorrow.
NTUC is also combing through the 23 Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) under the Committee of Future Economy (CFE). The ITMs have been jointly developed by the government, employers in the industries, and the labour movement. The ITMs cover 70% to 80% of the workforce in our economy. By combing through all the ITMs, NTUC aims transform the jobs in those industries so that workers can be more productive and thus earn better salaries.
To complement that effort, NTUC, through its Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and Learning Hub, will identify the next set of skills that workers need to equip themselves now while their jobs haven’t yet become obsolete.
The end goal is to ensure that people who have jobs today will be ready to take on jobs of tomorrow when their current jobs are lost due technology or any other changes in the economy.
All for workers
What’s the common thread stringing NTUC’s drive to be more representative and relevant? It’s the drive to ensure that Singaporean workers continue to have good jobs that pay good salaries.
Everything looks good on paper, but do we think NTUC can make it? Your guess is as good as mine, but we honestly do think the plan looks promising. But, the devil’s always in the execution and the details.
If NTUC can do that, then that would really be the best welfare that can be provided for Singaporean workers.