S'pore labour movement to help grow economy, protect vulnerable & upgrade workers' skills: Chee Hong Tat

Chee said that NTUC welcomes "the pro-worker, inclusive and forward-looking" Budget.

Syahindah Ishak | March 01, 2022, 04:51 PM

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A strong tripartite partnership between the labour movement, the Government, and employers will enable workers in Singapore to benefit from "better growth, better protection (of workers), and better skills".

This was what National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) deputy secretary-general Chee Hong Tat said in Parliament on Tuesday (March 1), the second day of debate on the 2022 Budget statement.

Chee added that the labour movement "welcomes the pro-worker, inclusive and forward-looking" Budget by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.

Growing Singapore's economy

Chee, who is also the Senior Minister of State for Transport, said that NTUC has implemented new ideas over the years to grow Singapore's economy.

These ideas include the development of the progressive wage model (PWM) and the formation of the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).

More recently in April 2019, the Company Training Committees (CTCs) were introduced to strengthen unions' engagements with companies and workers.

Since then, NTUC has set up 826 CTCs with large organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore, Chee said in his speech.

The S$100 million that the Government has agreed to set aside to scale up CTCs includes a S$70 million grant to help CTC companies implement their transformation plans.

The remaining S$30 million will be used to expand NTUC's team of industry training officers and enlarge its network of CTCs to benefit more workers and companies, Chee said.

He added that NTUC will aim to have at least 2,500 CTCs by 2025, a larger target from its original of 1,000 by this year.

Enhancing protection for workers

In his speech, Chee also said that the labour movement and its partners will uplift more vulnerable workers, including ex-offenders and people with special needs and disabilities, through training and job placement.

He explained that NTUC and e2i have been partnering with social enterprises and agencies, such as Agape Connecting People, Yellow Ribbon, Singapore Prison Service, and SG Enable, to help the vulnerable workers.

Chee also talked about some employers who "do not practice fair hiring and do not invest enough in developing their Singaporean core".

He said:

"They are the minority among employers, but their behaviours have created a negative impact on the lived experiences of our workers and their families.

NTUC supports the Government's moves to differentiate the inflow of foreigners to offer better protection for Singaporean workers, and to take firm enforcement action against errant employers to send a clear message.

However, we must not react to the small number of black sheep employers by implementing overly tight foreign manpower measures that will hurt our businesses, or worse, by stirring anti-foreigner sentiments among our population."

Chee explained that the Government should sharpen the differentiation in how it treats employers with good HR practices and strong relationships with the unions, versus those with poor HR records and do not put in effort to develop their local workforce.

"A differentiated approach is also fairer to good employers who have invested resources in building a strong Singaporean core and developed positive relations with the labour movement," he added.

Skills upgrading

In the last part of his speech, Chee talked about the labour movement's plan to tackle the jobs-skills mismatch, where employers who are short-handed cannot find enough workers with the right skills to fill their job vacancies.

To address the skills mismatch, NTUC formed tripartite academies, where unions, employers, and Government agencies come together to jointly identify industry-specific skills requirements so that workers can receive job-relevant training that prepare them for jobs offers.

Chee cited examples such as the Singapore Bus Academy and the Singapore Institute of Power and Gas, which were set up in 2016 and 2014 respectively.

More recently, NTUC set up the Tourism Careers Hub with Singapore Tourism Board, Workforce Singapore, e2i, and the industry associations to help employers and workers from the tourism sector.

Besides tourism, Chee said that the labour movement is discussing with employers and Government agencies to explore setting up tripartite academies in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, retail, logistics, security, healthcare and maritime.

The tripartite academies will serve as collaboration platforms at the sectoral level to complement NTUC's network of CTCs.

Chee explained:

"Both platforms will support the larger national objective of transforming Singapore’s economy by building stronger enterprise and workforce capabilities, which will in turn provide better jobs and better wages for our workers."

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Top image via Gov.sg YouTube.