NTUC touts '2 for 1' tie-up to woo professionals

SINGAPORE - MEMBERS of professional bodies and clubs will automatically become associate union members if their associations sign up with the labour movement.

This will ensure that professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) are served by not only their professional outfits, but also the unions.

Or in the words of labour chief Lim Swee Say at a key biennial meeting with union leaders, a "two for one" tie-up.

"The labour movement together with professional bodies... I think we'll serve our PMEs much better," he said in a speech made public on Wednesday.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has had a two- year trial to bring PMEs into its fold.

It partnered eight bodies and clubs such as the Nanyang Technological University Alumni Club and the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI). The tie-ups boosted NTUC's membership base by 8,100.

These bodies pay undisclosed fees to NTUC. Their members become card-carrying NTUC members who enjoy shopping discounts at FairPrice supermarkets and Unity pharmacies.

But they do not get benefits such as union representation during salary negotiations.

They can, however, individually turn to NTUC for help if they face workplace-related problems.

After two years, NTUC said it is ready to "call upon more professional bodies to collaborate" with it, said Mr Lim, who is secretary-general.

NTUC's membership director Vivek Kumar said it has not set specific targets for the scheme. "It is not about numbers. It really is about whether these PMEs see value in being part of the labour movement."

There are more than 200,000 PMEs on NTUC's roll, representing about one-fifth of the one million PMEs in the resident labour force.

It wants to eventually represent one in four PMEs here.

NTUC has more than 770,000 union members now, including students and retirees. It wants to reach one million union members by 2015, a target which Mr Lim described as "possible" and "within sight" on Tuesday.

To further assist PMEs in their careers, NTUC will also be setting up two new centres to give them career and legal advice. They will be located in Shenton Way and Jurong East.

"If you look at the workforce of the future, more than half of the workers will be PMEs... We must make sure that we are relevant to as many PMEs as possible," added Mr Lim, who also pledged to increase low-wage workers' pay.

SHRI president Erman Tan told The Straits Times that its tie-up with NTUC gave members links to the unions. The discounts and benefits were a draw too.

"It is always good for our members to have a strategic connection with NTUC, to understand its thinking and directions."

tohyc@sph.com.sg

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