TL;DR: NTUC LMPs understand workers’ concerns & aspirations
Y’all remember my bits and pieces about how Budget 2023 supports workers?
Today Kakak will update you about what went down during the second day of the Budget Debate (23 Feb).
NTUC Labour MPs (LMPs) spoke about training, improving retirement adequacy, unemployment support, supporting workers in lower-wage sectors and caregiving.
Our LMPs… are the real MVPs, no cap. Standby workers, it’s time to glo-up.
Wah… is it your kakak now a Gen-Z?
Training & Job Placement for Workers
Mr Desmond Tan, the Da Shuai Ge….eh I mean, Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) of NTUC, spoke about empowering workers to level up their skills and build a culture of lifelong learning and upskilling habits.
In his speech, he shared that when training was “initiated by the employers…. to meet specific job demands and with a better assurance of support and wage outcomes”, workers will want to go for training. This was based on the feedback from NTUC’s year-long engagements for #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations or #EWMC.
He calls for the gahmen to consider protected training leave for employees and review training funds and allowances to support our workers in alleviating their concern for opportunity cost when attending training.
He also gave an update on Company Training Committees (CTCs) mooted by NTUC and thanked gahmen for the $70m CTC Grant last year.
So far, NTUC has already:
- formed around 1,200 CTCs
- approved 17 companies’ CTC Grant projects and,
- currently processing many more applications.
He shared a story about a worker from Royal Plaza on Scotts, which formed a CTC and underwent Operations Technology Roadmap to transform its business and redesign jobs.
He said, “One direct beneficiary of CTC is Mr Hamid Bin Selamat, who was an engineering supervisor. Positive and open-minded towards upskilling, he took up security modules and became a certified Security Officer at the age of 65. Now, he can perform two roles in the company, with benefits such as better wages and work prospects.”
Wah! Multi-skilled at 65 years old. I also want leh.
Mr Desmond Tan said NTUC will support the new gahmen initiative Job-Skills Integrators (JSI) because it can help to bridge the information gap for workers and employers, who may find it challenging to identify high-quality training which industries will find relevant.
In his speech, Nominated Member of Parliament and General Secretary of the Union of Power and Gas Employees (UPAGE), Mr Abdul Samad, also expressed his support for JSI, which he felt may require “an intermediary body like NTUC to ensure that training benefits both workers and employers. After workers attend the training, we foresee they will progressively achieve the 3Ws (better Wages, Welfare and Work Prospects) while employers get better-skilled workers.”
Improving the Livelihoods of Lower-Wage Workers
And speaking about levelling up, Mr Fahmi Aliman, Director of NTUC’s Operations and Mobilisation Division, also highlighted how the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) has the livelihoods of our lower-wage workers through sustainable real wage increases that outpace median wage growth, defined career pathways and enhanced productivity through skills training and technology use with the PWM.
PWM was NTUC’s idea back in 2012. Then, together with gahmen and employers, the first PWM for the cleaning sector was implemented in 2014.
Subsequently, every 2-3 years, PWMs for other sectors were rolled out. PWMs for Retail, Food Services, Waste Management and the Occupational Progressive Wages (OPW) Administrators and Drivers have also been recently introduced.
These PWMs will cover around 135,000 full-time lower-wage workers. That’s almost half of the total number of lower-wage workers. Together with Progressive Wages measures recommended by the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers, such as the expanded Local Qualifying Salary (LQS) and the Progressive Wage Mark (PW Mark) accreditation, this would benefit up to 94 per cent of lower-wage workers.
LQS refers to the minimum salary employers must pay local workers to qualify for various work passes types like E Pass, S Pass and Work Permit. So if these companies want to hire foreign workers, they must pay all their local workers minimally the LQS, or the relevant Progressive Wages, which are higher.
This expanded requirement will potentially uplift more than 100,000 full-time resident workers who were previously earning below $1,400.
However, Mr Fahmi cautioned that while the LQS can protect local workers and prevent the displacement of low-wage jobs by foreign workers, it may also be problematic leh because the current amount of $1,400 is much lower than the P20 wage levels in 2022.
He calls for gahmen to “annually review the LQS to ensure wages keep pace with wage convergence targets for our lower-wage workers. This can be done through a mechanism like the National Wages Council, which already provides annual guidance on the range of Progressive Wage growth for lower-wage workers.”
Unemployment Support for Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs)
In many of his previous speeches….some as far back as a decade ago, NTUC’s Assistant Secretary-General (ASG), Mr Patrick Tay, has spoken about the vulnerability of our PMEs.
The chances of PMEs kena displaced are high because of fierce competition and rapid structural changes in our economy. Then for middle-aged PMEs, who typically have more dependents to care for, lagi stress la, of course. Because if kena retrenched, very difficult la to get a new job because of their age, and their skills are no longer relevant. So kesian (pitiful), right?
In his budget speech, he mentioned the 3Fs:
🗹 Financial support to cushion displaced workers in the short term as they actively search for new employment.
🗹 Facilitated employment and training so that workers can upgrade skillsets which will help them to seize opportunities in the new economy.
🗹 Fair access to PME roles which will allow PMEs to compete with foreign PMEs, regardless of age, on a level playing field, boost local PMEs’ employment outcomes, and strengthen the Singaporean Core.
He said, ”When complemented with active labour market interventions, unemployment support – or using another term, re-employment support – can help displaced PMEs in their job search journey. The support provides displaced workers with the space to upgrade their skills and look out for suitable employment, with the knowledge that they could continue supporting their family’s basic needs during this difficult period. This increases the likelihood of PMEs looking for jobs that are a good match to their skill sets or which offer progression opportunities. With a better job match, their employment duration at their next job could be longer, and any underemployment mitigated.”
This short-term financial support is part of the recommendations presented by the joint NTUC-SNEF PME Taskforce in 2021. In fact, he is also the one who has consistently lobbied for some form of unemployment support for our PMEs since 2014!
Besides supporting displaced workers, he also asked gahmen to consider “incentivising more employers to send their employees for training by providing higher funding support for Absentee Payroll and providing maximum funding for courses relevant to sectors where there is a shortage of local PMEs and workers”.
If gahmen supports this, our PMEs, who are still employed, can level up their skills and stay relevant.
In response to his 3Fs, I say 3As: agree, agree and agree.
Moving Forward with Our Youths
Y’all know right the theme for this year’s Budget is “Moving forward in a new era”. Obviously, if we want to move forward, we must not forget our young people lah.
To ensure a smoother transition from school to work, NTUC’s Assistant Secretary-General (ASG), Mr Desmond Choo, said we should provide our in-school youths; specifically, those in ITE, are supported with:
💪Structured vocational pathways (for example, apprenticeship programmes)
These measures will create a “better balance in valuing both technical and academic routes of career advancement.”
He shared that youths in their first and second careers seek opportunities to work overseas and smoother career conversions.
This is based on feedback gathered in a focus group discussion led by Young NTUC, where more than half of working youths who participated said they want to work overseas because they can get better career prospects, gain critical transferable skillsets, and improve their professional networks.
Kakak also believes in this lah, and if I get such opportunities, I can also push my children to go. But you know, not easy lah you know. I sibeh happy when I heard he asked for support measures like remuneration support, relocation incentives, and mentorship with others who have been in their position.
He added,” We could consider changing the current IHL overseas exchange for our students into a more work-based or company-centric module. This can give our students an early taste of working overseas while sharpening the studies to work nexus.”
Advancing the Interests of Senior Workers
Mr Heng Chee How, NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General, expressed his appreciation to the gahmen for advancing the interests of our senior workers. From extending the Senior Employment Credit and Part-time Re-employment Grant to strengthening retirement adequacy by raising the CPF Contribution Ceiling, something he had called for a review in last year’s Budget Debate.
He added that retirement adequacy is a significant concern often raised among senior workers in NTUC’s survey because “it concerns a basic sense of security and confidence of Singaporeans. The NTUC wants to work closely with Government in this area to see what innovations can yield practical and sustainable improvements and to rally workers’ support for those. “
Improve Productivity for Self-Employed Persons (SEPs) Through Upskilling
Highlighting the many challenges our SEPs face, Ms Yeo Wan Ling, Advisor to National Taxi Association, National Delivery Champions Association (NDCA) and National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) calls for the gahmen to support this group of workers to improve their productivity through upskilling.
She highlighted three areas:
💪Expand the training allowance for self-sponsored trainees to include SEPs, so that they can afford a few days off to upskill
💪Deeper support for SEPs upskilling in critical skills such as digitalisation and digitisation, especially for SEPs working in sectors where there have been technological disruptions like the media and transport industries
💪Develop skills frameworks for SEPs in crafts and trades-based professions such as for photographers, videographers, plumbers, mechanics and incorporating apprenticeship programmes into training frameworks with Government support
Support for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities
Ms Yeo who is also the Director of NTUC U Women and Family (WAF) Unit also highlighted Labour Movement’s advocacy of enhancing support for workers with caregiving responsibilities, of which the majority are women.
“During COVID-19, I had many women who came up to me, wanting to look for work. Some wanted to supplement their diminished household income; others wanted to do their part to bolster the Singapore economy during our times of need. However, even as we matched jobs to them through job fairs and job mentorship programs, the same caregiving concerns that keep our women out of the workforce are still barriers that do not go away!”
She emphasised the urgency of enhancing workplace inclusivity and job redesigning adopting more family-friendly Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs).
She calls for “more targeted support from the Government and focused action from businesses, more SMEs can reap the benefits of FWAs, while allowing caregivers to stay or return to the workforce. During the job redesign process, companies may face manpower crunches, and need help through redesign consultancy or facilitation. For this, the Labour Movement can work with the Government on a combination of grant support, roadmaps and specialised consultancies through a Job Redesign Support Package.”
That’s right gurllll… let the workplace evolve. WFH FTW!
Tripartism Remains the Cornerstone of the Singapore Way
In his May Day Rally speech in 2022, DPM Lawrence Wong said that “tripartism remains the cornerstone of the Singapore Way.”
I agree lor.
All these things that our Labour MPs have been advocating can only be made possible because we got a strong spirit of Tripartism where unions, employers and gahmen work together and achieve win-win outcomes!
In his conclusion, Mr Desmond Tan said,” Charting our paths forward, NTUC reaffirms the importance of tripartism… I quote Prime Minister Lee’s speech during NTUC National Delegates Conference in 2011; he said this about tripartism, “We have to preserve this ability, this trust at all costs. It’s an intangible national treasure; we built it up through our young history. It’s one of the most valuable things we can pass on to our future generations.”
Tripartism…isssagood. I stan our LMPs.