New centre and hotline to provide support for low-wage workers

SINGAPORE - NTUC's first U Care Centre, located at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability in Jurong East, will host job fairs and social events, and inform workers about their employment rights and statutory benefits.

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Here is the full statement from NTUC:

The Labour Movement (LM) has set up its first U Care Centre (UCC) and dedicated hotline to step-up its support efforts to help low-wage workers. The UCC was officially launched by Mr Zainal Sapari, Director of NTUC's Unit for Contract and Casual Workers (UCCW), at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability today.

More Targeted Help for Low-Wage Workers

Housed within NTUC's e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) Career Services Centre, the UCC is a one-stop centre dedicated to promoting the welfare of low-wage workers in Singapore. The idea for such a one-stop centre was mooted during a series of focus group discussions held in August this year involving workers, service buyers, service providers, grassroots and union leaders. They raised several salient issues, including a lack of targeted assistance for low-wage workers and uncertainty among these workers as to where they could go or whom they could approach to seek help on workplace issues.

Thus, the UCC serves to address these concerns by providing assistance for low-wage workers who are Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents earning an average gross monthly income of $1,900 and below. Those who meet these criteria will be enrolled as U Care Members when they walk in to UCC for guidance and advice on work-related issues like employment rights, fair contract terms and statutory benefits. Furthermore, UCC's location within e2i means that UCC can better help these workers gain access to job placements and skills upgrading programmes.

Additionally, low-wage workers who visit UCC may also opt to sign up as U Care Value Members for additional benefits. At a fee of $12 a year, U Care Value Members will be covered under basic Group Term Life Insurance, which covers them for total permanent disability and death. They will also have access to special discounts at selected NTUC Social Enterprises and priority invitations to social events organised for them and their families.

The launch of the U Care Centre marks a transition from the previous Centre for Contract and Casual Workers (C3W), which was set up in 2010 at e2i's Redhill campus to help only contract and casual workers. The UCC will open its doors to a broader group, targeting all low-wage workers who fulfil the criteria mentioned above.

Enhancing Accessibility via Dedicated Toll-free Hotline

In addition to visiting UCC for assistance, low-wage workers who wish to seek advice on workplace issues can also call in to UCC's new and dedicated toll-free hotline - 1800-255-2828. This dedicated hotline gives workers greater accessibility to UCC's services as it serves as an additional touch point for workers to seek help and clarify doubts on workplace and employment issues.

Both UCC and the dedicated toll-free hotline form part of the LM's push for better wages for low-wage workers. Last week during the NTUC Ordinary Delegates' Conference (ODC), union leaders had agreed to aim for a breakthrough in helping low-wage workers in 2014. Collectively, they set a target for the LM to achieve a higher percentage wage increase for the low-wage sector than the percentage increase in the median national wage in 2014.

For example, with the licensing of all cleaning companies to come into force in 2014, firms must adopt the progressive wage model and pay their cleaners a basic wage of at least $1,000. This is a wage increase of 20 per cent from $800, which is the median basic wage of cleaners in offices and other establishments, according to figures from the Ministry of Manpower. Similarly, the LM will persist in its efforts to raise the wages of low-wage workers in other industries, such as the security and landscape sectors.

Also endorsed at the ODC was the need for workers' gains to be widespread to benefit even more low-wage workers. Moving forward, the UCC and toll-free hotline will strengthen the LM's push to improve the wages and career progression paths of more low-wage workers in more sectors, starting with the cleaning, security and landscaping sectors.

Mr Zainal Sapari, Director of UCCW, said, "Our U Care Centre and dedicated toll-free hotline provide a safe environment and easy accessibility for low-wage workers to seek assistance and clarification on workplace and employment rights and issues. It also better enables the Labour Movement to extend our outreach to help more workers and be a bigger voice for the low-wage community in Singapore. By stepping up our support efforts, we hope to be able to better the lives of even more low-wage workers and their families as we continue to champion fair employment and fair wages for them."