Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) announced on 11 August, the new public engagement exercise, “#EveryWorkerMatters Conversations” during a dialogue hosted for over 100 union leaders.
This year-long initiative aims to gather ground sentiments from at least 20,000 workers in Singapore of all ages, collars, and sectors to understand their interest and anxieties surrounding their work.
Subsequently, NTUC aims to consolidate these findings and co-develop solutions with working people in Singapore to tackle some of the pressing issues we face in our jobs today.
No, it won’t involve convincing your boss to include more biscuit varieties in the office pantry because your taste buds have “never quite been the same ever since you caught COVID.”
But potentially better things are to come.
Singapore is arguably at an inflection point, after enjoying almost 60 years of strong, stable growth. This is a view that NTUC and some others share.
Though the country is bouncing back from it, the pandemic has arguably been a key driver of changes in our workforce profiles and national economic agenda.
“During the trying period, many workers in our country were protected under NTUC’s Fair Retrenchment Framework. Some who lost jobs received training and new placements under initiatives by NTUC’s Job Security Council, while the Self-Employed Income Relief Scheme helped those eligible to tide over these critical times,” NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng stated.
However, he added that “more needs to be done in light of challenges ahead.”
Our small and open economy also remains exposed to global factors that can stall our growth. For instance, it was announced in May this year that our 2022 GDP growth rate is projected to be maintained at “3.0 to 5.0 per cent”, coming in at the lower half of the forecast year.
Singapore’s demographics and workforce profile are also changing, as smaller families emerge, and the ageing population trend persists. These groups have their own, new set of needs and aspirations, which NTUC aims to better cater to.
With global uncertainty, intensified competition within and beyond our shores, as well as changing demographics, comes new opportunities for NTUC to impact firms and workers in relevant ways.
The #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations Will Take Place Over 3 Phases
The primary aim of The Conversations is to “refresh and strengthen [NTUC’s] compact with workers, and find ways to meet their needs and challenges, through first understanding the concerns, priorities and aspirations of workers,” NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng shared.
The conversations, which will involve a wide spectrum of Singaporeans across life stages and socio-economic statuses, will take place across three phases.
The first phase will run from now till the end of 2022, where the public will be engaged through mediums like surveys, dialogue, and focus group discussions, to share their views on NTUC’s compact with workers, and career-related concerns.
The second phase will start in 2023 and will involve a series of policy workshops conducted by NTUC, involving the tripartite partners, institutions of higher learning, HR practitioners, and other relevant organisations to come together and crystallise concrete solutions to strengthen the workers compact.
Last but not least, NTUC will look to surface findings from earlier phases during the third and final phase, where recommendations will likely be made by mid-2023. This entails working with government policymakers and fourth-generation leaders from the People’s Action Party (PAP) through Forward Singapore. Through this, NTUC aims to continue its work in championing for better wages, welfare, and work prospects for workers.
When it comes to hitting the 20,000-worker engagement target and even potentially exceeding it, NTUC is not ruling out any channels that can be utilised.
A Variety of Channels to Get Conversations Going
“We’ll use TikTok if we have to,” Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng shared, when asked about how NTUC intended to reach out to the youths to garner their responses.
NTUC did use unconventional yet effective methods to get the opinions and concerns of food delivery riders during the pandemic.
“We would send people down to meet them at their delivery destinations in between their delivery trips to interview them,” Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng shared. “When you’re working about 13 hours a day, you simply do not have the time to come down to the [NTUC] office for a chat. That’s why we went down to them,” he added.
He also stated that NTUC would find different ways to engage workers on the ground based on their individual segments, citing approaches like going to schools such as the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to conduct conversations with students as part of the Youth Taskforce, as an existing example.
Other potential points of contact shared with the press include team building sessions with SME workers, events hosted by NTUC themselves, or even informal chats with workers over meals.
Hey, if NTUC is buying, we’ll surely be there.
Youths, Freelancers, and PMEs to Benefit from The Conversations
With the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations, NTUC aims to bring together all resources and its network to offer concrete solutions for a wide range of Singaporeans, anywhere from working parents to self-employed workers.
Some groups that will be targeted under this initiative worth highlighting, are the youths, gig economy workers, as well as Professionals, Managers, and Executives (PMEs).
You’re probably thinking, do professionals and top executives sitting in their Shenton Way office, drawing a $20,000 monthly salary need help with wage and career progression related concerns?
Well I mean, if you’re already at the top, where else can you progress to right?
But no—specifically, Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng shared that The Conversations would also aim to benefit PMEs who may have fallen through the cracks in past work improvement schemes.
When we talk about PMEs, they can be for example, fast-food chain store managers who may take home a monthly salary of about $3,000. NTUC advocates for the importance of providing such groups with an adequate platform for their wage concerns or career aspirations to be shared.
This comes in light of the growing concern that we will face greater job polarisation and income inequality in our job market in coming years. Some key concerns of Singapore workers found by NTUC through research include:
- Lack of career progression opportunities
- Lack of bargaining power to negotiate for better pay
- Lack of work life balance (due to additional work tasks, long working hours, or even post-pandemic inflexible working arrangements)
- Desire for greater transparency from companies on wage and progression opportunities
Through engaging over 10,000 in the existing PMEs taskforce, NTUC has provided many workers who have faced retrenchment with financial aid and retraining sessions, enabling them to seek new employment opportunities using skills that are more relevant to the digitised and greener landscape.
Youths are another group which will be invited to share their thoughts through the conversations, as NTUC aims to provide them with better support in their future careers to set them up for long-term career success. Some concerns on entering the workforce that is common amongst youths include financial, career progression, and mental health related worries.
This will build on the work of the NTUC Youth Taskforce that was launched earlier in July this year.
Lastly, vulnerable workers such as those in the gig economy and other freelancers would be invited to share their views on enhancing representation, retirement adequacy, housing need, as well as greater protection against workplace injury.
How does NTUC Foresee Itself Tackling the Issues Raised from The Conversations?
As we know, NTUC has continually evolved to keep pace with shifts in the workforce profiles and national economic agenda. Over the years, they have created new associations representing professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), taxi drivers, freelancers, platform workers, and content creators to champion for better working lives.
Yes, even content creators.
So the next time your TikTok doesn’t get enough likes, maybe try reaching out to someone from NTUC.
This time, NTUC foresees various parties coming together to establish consensus on workplace practices and policies for these issues to be tackled effectively. For instance, trade-off on the bottom line of a business or career progression of an individual may have to be made for the betterment of worker mental health and welfare.
“Through these Conversations, we want to hear what each of us as working people are willing to give up achieving our goals at work. What roles we foresee our employers, unions, and government playing—today, tomorrow and the years ahead. We can then co-create solutions, to support, you, progress ahead, and shape the future of work with our social compact,” NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng shared.
We know you Singaporeans love complaining—I mean—sharing about your issues, so take this as an opportunity and participate in NTUC’s #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations.
So why wait? Go express your views here.
Featured Image: NTUC
This article was first published on Goody Feed and written in collaboration with NTUC