NTUC falls slightly as wages rise

NTUC falls slightly as wages rise
A student collecting textbooks donated through NTUC FairPrice's Share-A-Textbook project.

The labour movement gave out over $8.89 million to low-income union members and their families through its care fund this year, a shade less than last year.

Fewer members also benefited from some assistance programmes under the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) U Care Fund, because their wages have gone up.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari said it is reviewing the qualifying criterion, which is now pegged to a total monthly gross household income of not more than $2,800.

Members who qualify can apply for vouchers to subsidise their daily necessities, as well as to pay for their children's school expenses for items such as books, stationery and spectacles.

Last year, these vouchers were given out to some 29,880 families and 29,380 children, as part of the $8.99 million disbursement from the U Care Fund. This year, 24,420 families and 26,600 children benefited. NTUC has over 830,000 members.

Giving an annual report card of the fund yesterday, Mr Zainal said: "Many of our lower-income union members are earning better wages.

"We are going to review our qualifying income criterion and hopefully we can benefit more of our low-income union members," said Mr Zainal, who is also the director of the NTUC Care and Share department, which handles fund raising and assistance programmes.

Ms Phyllis Lim, deputy director of NTUC Care and Share, said it constantly monitors national household income trends to stay relevant.

When the fund started in 2009, for instance, the qualifying criterion was a gross monthly household income of not more than $1,800, but this was adjusted to $2,200 in 2011 and up to the current $2,800 two years ago.

A total of $67 million has been disbursed through the fund over the past five years.

Of the $8.89 million given out this round, $3.08 million has been used to help low-income families and $4.76 million went to assist needy children, Mr Zainal said. Over $1 million has also been devoted to initiatives for the elderly and underprivileged.

Besides its voucher schemes, the U Care Fund also helps to support family carnivals, co-fund bursaries, and support literacy programmes for children, among other initiatives.

One union member to benefit is housewife Florence Khoo, 48, who has used her vouchers to stock up on school shoes for her two daughters, 11 and 12.

"The school shoes don't last these days... the glue is lousy and they split after two months," she said.

Yesterday, some 20,000 needy students were also invited to collect free textbooks, which have been donated through supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice's Share-A-Textbook project.

Over 400,000 textbooks were collected this round, the most ever in the project's 32 years.

Those who are interested can browse through and select the books, which also include storybooks and encyclopaedias, today, from 9am to 3pm, at three distribution centres - Changkat Changi Secondary School, Gan Eng Seng School and Yio Chu Kang Secondary School.

adrianl@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 14, 2014.
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