The alternative news in 1 day? (part 33) – Unions to help Five Stars’ workers?

I refer to the article “Unions helping workers affected by closure of Five Stars Tours” (Channel NewsAsia, Jan 18).

Unions helping Five Stars Tours’ workers?

In a joint statement by Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers’ Union (SMMWU) and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), they said that the affected workers of Five Stars Tours will be informed of the avenues of assistance that are available to them.

The two union bodies will provide S$600 worth of vouchers to each of the union members to help them with the purchase of daily necessities.

Sometimes, when you read the news – you may feel that it may raise even more questions than what apparently the news may seem to want to inform members of the public.

Some rather obvious questions that come to mind are such as,  how many and what percentage of the tour agency’s workers are union members, who will be helped? Moving to an even larger picture of the issue, what percentage of workers in travel agencies in Singapore are union members?

Instead of just saying that affected workers will be informed of the avenues of assistance that are available to them, why not just state the “avenues of assistance”? As to “Members will be contacted on the details of these vouchers” – why not just give the details of these vouchers?

“Affected members can seek the help of SMMWU in their job search by contacting the union and providing their resumes for job-matching with other unionised companies of SMMWU.”

How many unionised companies are there in SMMWU? Are any of them travel agencies?

“Affected workers who are Singaporeans or PRs (but not citizens) can approach NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) for assistance with training and job placements.

So non-citizens can approach NTUC or SMMWU for assistance – I find this to be rather confusing.

Let me explain why.

If you are an affected worker from the travel agency – and you are a union member regardless of whether you are a citizen, PR or foreigner – you can contact the SMMWU.

But it also says that if you are a Singaporean or PR (union or non-union member, but not if you are a non-citizen), you contact e2i for training and job placements.

It appears that the SMMWU can only help you to find a job with other unionised companies of SMMWU, whereas e2i can help you to find a job with any company in Singapore, as well as for assistance for training.

And here’s perhaps the most confusing part – if you are a non-citizen, you can approach NTUC or SMMWU.

Now, why would NTUC and SMMWU help a non-citizen who is not a union member? Or does it mean that this “help” statement only applies to non-citizens who are union members? Or could it be that unions will now help non-citizens who are not union members too, as the statement seems to imply?

And what exactly does “can approach NTUC or SMMWU” mean? What exactly happens and what help can you expect – since you are not a union member as well as a non-citizen?

In the past, got help?

In the past, did the labour movement give $600 vouchers to union members whose travel agency employers or other companies closed down abruptly? Did the SMMWU help them to find jobs  in other unionised companies of SMMWU. If so, what has been its success rate?

Do the other unions provide the same job matching service as the SMMWU?

Good news first time?

Is this the first time that the union movement has issued a media statement to help travel agency closure workers in this way, as I do not recall ever reading something like this for the several travel agency closures in previous years?

How many and what percentage of travel agency closure workers have been helped with vouchers, and successfully placed in jobs by the unions, in the past?

Leong Sze Hian

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