NTUC to set up taskforce to assist pre-retrenchment older workers

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is looking at establishing a taskforce aimed at securing the future of older workers in Singapore, particularly those in the “pre-retrenchment” phase who are in their 40s or 50s, said secretary-general Ng Chee Meng on Wed (16 Oct).

Speaking to reporters at the end of the NTUC Delegates’ Conference yesterday, Ng, who is also a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said that while the number of pre-retrenchment workers is not large, many of them, particularly professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), are apprehensive about job loss and the prospects of re-employment.

Older workers, he observed, may also struggle to be re-hired in a similar job after being laid off, which has resulted in a considerable number of them becoming drivers for private-hire car services as a new source of income.

Consequently, to mitigate such problems, Ng said that the taskforce will seek initiate partnerships with employers and making sure that workers will be equipped with crucial technical skills.

“When we talk about work security, it’s not just in the space of pre-retrenchment but also training philosophy.

“Can we rethink our protection model to go upstream – partner our employers and see how we can go into the pre-retrenchment phase to help our workers? I think we can,” he said.

Touching further on the idea of partnering employers, Ng said: “Companies trust our unions and they do let us know ahead of time, so that we can help workers to transit into other jobs in the same industry … In some cases, maybe (take up) other training to go into other industries.”

“Because we have this experience, when we see the new problem of retrenched PMEs (in their 40s and 50s), we want to see if we can play a role in this space,” he added.

The proposal, which was mooted by Ng in his opening speech at the conference, was approved by delegates.

Gilbert Tan, chief executive officer of the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), will be heading the taskforce. Further details on the taskforce will be announced in the future.

PAP and NTUC ‘twins’ in S’pore labour system, workers should build upon the system instead of tearing it down: PM Lee

Earlier on Tue (15 Oct), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told conference delegates that there is no need for workers to dismantle Singapore’s current labour system, as the symbiotic alliance between the People’s Action Party (PAP) government and the NTUC has always been founded on a common desire to improve and secure the the well-being and future of workers in Singapore.

The partnership between PAP and NTUC, he said, can be traced back to the early 1950s when the late Lee Kuan Yew fought for better working conditions on behalf of the Postal and Telecommunications Uniformed Staff Union as a young lawyer, prior to becoming Singapore’s first prime minister.

“In Singapore, you may not know, but when people say industrial action, they really mean industrial ‘inaction’ — that means nothing is happening, but it shows that you are angry, and there was a lot to be angry about in the 1950s,” Lee said.

Lee, who is also the PAP’s secretary-general, said that at present, NTUC continues to “rethink its role” in staying relevant to workers.

“We are once again sailing into uncharted waters. The world is filled with uncertainties. Our economy is entering a new phase. Technology is transforming many industries. Emerging businesses are disrupting established players.

“Our workers have to be ready for change. We have to talk about it, we have to understand it, and we have to say we are ready to face it,” he said.

“We will always stand with workers and ensure your well-being. We will always do our best to help you and your children progress with Singapore and have a better life, and we will ensure that no Singaporean, regardless of background or circumstances, will ever be shut out from opportunities or be left behind,” Lee assured.

Highlighting that many of the current PAP Members of Parliament have a stake in the Singapore labour movement — and even NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng being a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office — Lee added that workers “have influence and interests within the system”.

“You do not have to go outside it, work around it, or worse, try to pull it down and replace it. This is your system. Make it succeed and take pride in it. The PAP is working with you, for you, for Singapore,” he said.