Ng Chee Meng: Over 40,000 workers engaged through #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations

The NTUC Secretary-General outlines three broad strategies to continue helping workers.
By Nicolette Yeo 01 May 2023
SG May Day Rally 2023.jpeg

Over 40,000 workers from all walks of life were engaged through NTUC’s #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations (#EWMC) in the past nine months, as part of the Labour Movement’s plans to refresh its compact with workers.


Workers raised several concerns, ranging from daily pressures like cost of living and caregiving challenges to longer-term issues such as income security and retirement adequacy.


NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng gave the update on 1 May 2023 at the May Day Rally, held at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.


Mr Ng added: “NTUC wants to use the #EWMC initiatives to complement the Government's Forward Singapore [exercise]...


“In forging this social compact, NTUC aims to co-create an economically vibrant and inclusive Singapore, where every worker can have the dignity of making a good living and bettering their lives.”


What are NTUC’s latest achievements?


Mr Ng pointed out that the post-pandemic world today is fraught with issues like geopolitical tensions, economic uncertainties, and industrial unrest that impact workers and businesses.


He added that Singapore has not been spared as it currently faces rising inequality and social issues.


Citing industrial unrest in other countries, Mr Ng said that NTUC’s approach of championing workers’ interests while maintaining industrial peace has led to win-win outcomes for workers and employers.


He highlighted these achievements:

  • Lower-wage workers: the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) will cover 135,000 lower-wage workers by July 2023. The PWM raises workers’ wages and helps them cope with higher costs. It also helps businesses by driving productivity improvements.

  • Platform workers: NTUC has lobbied through the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers for employer CPF contributions, workplace injury benefits, financial support and NTUC representation for fair work outcomes and conditions.

  • Mature workers: NTUC and its tripartite partners have increased retirement and re-employment ages and are restoring CPF contribution rates. Mature workers welcome the idea of working longer and receiving more CPF, while employers can tap their experience to increase their labour pool.

  • Cost of living: NTUC social enterprises have helped to moderate the cost of living. NTUC FairPrice, for example, has introduced discounts on essentials like rice, eggs and cooking oil, monthly price freezes on 50 popular essentials and weekly discounts of up to 50 per cent on selected items.


What will NTUC do for workers next?

Mr Ng outlined three broad strategies to continue helping workers.


The first strategy is to expand on NTUC’s current efforts. On this, he shared that NTUC will scale up NTUC Company Training Committees (CTC).


Mr Ng revealed that over 1,300 CTC have been formed to date to help over 100,000 workers across various sectors gain better skills and more than 400 companies transform their business.


He added: “We must redouble our efforts to scale this important work -  [set up] 2,500 CTC by 2025, drive Industry 4.0 transformation with our employer partners, and ultimately come back to our core purpose to achieve better wages, better welfare and better work prospects for all our workers across all collars.”


The NTUC Secretary-General cited the ST Logistics-Supply Chain Employees’ Union CTC that trained over 1,000 workers to cope in an automated environment. NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) and NTUC LearningHub (NTUC LHUB) supported the training efforts.


As a result, about 76 per cent of the company’s workers received a skills allowance of up to $325 in their salaries. One such worker is Rajesh Kumar who now holds a higher value job as a Logistics Lead Co-ordinator and earns a better salary.


Mr Ng added that the CTC also benefits PMEs. He highlighted the BDO Tax Advisory Singapore-Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union CTC, which helped the company’s PMEs achieve new skills and wage adjustments.


The second strategy is to do more to support underserved worker segments. For this, he said that NTUC will help PMEs by supporting the effort to certify 12,000 HR practitioners with fair employment practices.


For youth, Mr Ng highlighted the Youth Taskforce and NTUC Career Starter Lab pilot initiative to support youth with an enhanced career trial to smoothen the school-to-work transition. This is on top of existing career fairs and SkillsFuture @NS LXP for post-National Service youth.

Singapore National Employers Federation President Robert Yap said the pilot initiative will go a long way to help youth struggling to transition into a job.


"When young people come out to work, they do not know where to go, [thus] a more organised internship where you match supply and demand from both sides will help the employers and employees. The employers get the right workers who want to belong to that industry and vice-versa. Companies get to hit the road faster, and the people who are coming into the workforce also benefit," he said.


NTUC Central Committee member Sazali Zainal added that the NTUC Career Starter Lab pilot is a good way for companies to attract young workers.

"It is good for the companies to self-reflect on their work processes because a lot of them are having problems retaining workers. With this approach, companies can see if they are able to attract youngsters ... and get better feedback at a lower level."


The third strategy is to establish an NTUC innovation culture to support workers in a fast-paced world to “keep NTUC agile, adaptive and relevant to meet worker needs across all collars”.


Recounting NTUC’s innovation journey from 2019 to date, Mr Ng noted that progress has been made.


Business model outcomes included moving into the freelancer space; developing a partnership model to serve SME workers in over 700 firms; and introducing a new Migrant Workers’ Center (MWC) Associate Membership which has onboarded 25,000 migrant workers.


Membership model outcomes centred on offering new benefits to cater to members’ needs and aspirations across different life stages and leveraging technology to enhance the membership experience through a refreshed NTUC website, chatbots and MyNTUC app. He added that NTUC’s membership has grown from 980,000 members in 2019 to 1.12 million members today.


Training model outcomes included establishing the NTUC Training and Transformation Group to adopt a Whole of Integrated NTUC approach towards training. This includes CTC innovations and an integrated Training and Placement ecosystem comprising NTUC LHUB, NTUC’s e2i and Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute.


NTUC social enterprises have also made innovation inroads with the setting up of Trust Bank with Standard Chartered which now has 500,000 customers, as well as leveraging technology to create differentiated customer experiences and provide customers with easy access and transparency. Other innovations included the “Digital First” FairPrice outlet at Sengkang and FairPrice app e-payment at Kopitiam with 10 per cent discount.


How will NTUC continue to meet workers’ needs?


Mr Ng underscored the necessity to continue meeting workers’ evolving needs in a sustained manner.


He said: “NTUC must build an innovation culture, develop the business strategies and implement decisively Dream, Dare, Do. We must embrace an innovation culture we we dare to try and sometimes fail. If we fail, we fail fast and we learn fast. Then we go out, try again, and move towards success.


“We can, you can. In the last four years, we have started the three I’s of innovation, went through the COVID years...and yet we stand here today a stronger NTUC. Let us press on and make this innovation a part of our NTUC culture, so that we can press ahead and continue with our mission and purpose to create better lives.”