The labour movement is racing to hit its target of one million members by next year by going all out to get more white-collar workers to join its ranks.
To do so, it will need to swell its numbers by another 170,000 over the next 16 months, a target that National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong is confident of hitting.
"We have 16 months to go. We will need breakthrough ideas and one group we are targeting are the professionals, managers and executives (PMEs)," she said.
Speaking on the sidelines of an NTUC award ceremony yesterday, she said that NTUC managed to grow its overall membership by 7.8 per cent, or 60,000, from 770,000 last year to 830,000.
This is more than the 5.5 per cent growth in the previous year, when membership rose from 730,000 in 2012 to 770,000 last year.
Ms Cham said part of the spike in membership came from more firms getting unionised. There were 95 new unionised firms last year, the largest number the labour movement has seen in a decade. This year, around 40 firms were unionised.
NTUC reported it has about 144,000 foreigners in its ranks, with the rest being Singaporeans and permanent residents.
But it is the PME group, which makes up about 238,000 of its members, that NTUC is eyeing. Ms Cham acknowledges that many are hesitant to join because they do not see the benefits. "But when they run into workplace grievances, we tell them, "Sorry, we can't represent you as you are not our member'," she said.
She outlined two strategies to get more PMEs on board.
First, NTUC hopes to reach out to the estimated 300,000 PMEs in the 1,500 unionised firms to join as union members.
Second, it will partner more professional bodies and clubs which professionals belong to. Members of these groups would automatically become associate union members if the groups sign up with the NTUC.
To date, the labour movement has partnered nine bodies and clubs such as the Institution of Engineers Singapore and Singapore Human Resources Institute. The tie-ups boosted NTUC's membership base by about 7,000. NTUC hopes to partner 20 professional bodies in total by next year.
NTUC's membership director Vivek Kumar said the labour movement will be organising more networking events and professional programmes for PMEs.
Labour chief Lim Swee Say said at yesterday's event at the Pantages Theatre at Universal Studios Singapore in Sentosa: "We are getting more unionised firms, members of all collars and generations.
"We are confident of reaching one million members and beyond."
This article was first published on August 22, 2014.
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