May Day 2021

  • Post published:25 May 2021

NTUC sets up Foundation with S$250million to help workers and families

Photo Credit: NTUC

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has set up a foundation with an initial funding of $250 million which will be invested to boost the welfare of its members and their families.

NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng announced this at the NTUC May Day Rally held on 1 May at the Downtown East.

The NTUC Foundation, which was incorporated on 27 April 2021, will provide a stable and sustainable stream of income to enable NTUC to take care of the needs of members.

It will complement the support of donors, including the Singapore Labour Foundation, NTUC Social Enterprises, affiliated unions, private sector corporations and individuals, who have been funding the financial assistance and grants to vulnerable members through its U Care initiatives. 

With the Foundation, NTUC will be better able to diversify the type of support provided and respond to the changing needs of members through economic ups and downs. Efforts will be targeted at boosting the welfare, working conditions or social and economic status of its members, as well as providing members’ children, especially those from lower income families, a good start in life and a good education.

NTUC May Day Rally took on a hybrid approach this year with some 200 key Labour Movement leaders and tripartite partners gathering at Downtown East joined by more than 1,500 invited guests and Union leaders who attended the event virtually through Zoom. 

“NTUC wants to do more to boost the welfare of our members and their families. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we have seen the care needs of our members increase, while the ability of our donors to contribute naturally declined. The NTUC Foundation will be well-placed to improve funding stability for valuable causes that support our members and their families through the ups and downs of life and the economy, giving hope for a better future.” NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng

COVID-19 reminds how vital a strong Labour Movement is

Photo Credit: NTUC

Digitalisation, automation and sustainability­­ are new trends that Singapore must get ahead of. But for workers to seize opportunities and have new, better paying jobs, they have to have the right skills.

In his May Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reiterated the importance of lifelong learning and called on workers to make use of their SkillsFuture credits.

While many union leaders have asked for the Jobs Support Scheme to be extended further, PM Lee said the scheme is an “artificial life support” that “keeps us breathing for a while, but it cannot last forever. We must still find a way to fully recover, get back on our feet, and build new muscles.”

He added that $50 billion has been drawn from Singapore’s past reserves to help businesses and workers.  “This is unprecedented, but as the economy recovers, we have to recalibrate our support to a more sustainable level.”

PM Lee pointed out that while union memberships have been steadily declining In many developed countries, in Singapore, the numbers are going up. 

“During the COVID-19 downturn last year, numbers have gone up because people know that they need the union in a crisis,” he added.

“COVID-19 has reminded us again how vital a strong Labour Movement is. As Singapore presses ahead in an uncertain world, we must keep our Labour Movement strong, and we must strengthen its bonds with a pro-labour government.”

He stressed that the PAP will always stand solidly by the NTUC and by workers. “You are at the heart of what we do. You are the reason why the PAP was founded. You are the reason why the PAP exists today,” PM Lee stressed.

DPM Heng Swee Keat receives top May Day Award

This year’s top May Day Award – the Medal of Honour – was presented to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. The Medal of Honour is conferred on special individuals who have rendered distinguished services to the Labour Movement. 

The NTUC May Day Awards 2021 ceremony, held on 28 April 2021, was hosted by NTUC President Mary Liew and NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng at Downtown East, with more than 200 attendees comprising union leaders and tripartite partners over two sessions on the same day. The ceremony was also streamed online via Zoom for awardees’ guests. DPM Heng was the Guest-of-Honour for the awards ceremony.

DPM Heng was amongst the 143 union leaders and tripartite partners who were recognised for their exemplary contributions in advancing workers’ interests, as well as workers who are themselves role models at their workplaces. 

Photo Credit: NTUC

DPM Heng has played an instrumental role in ensuring that our economy continues to provide a thriving environment for our businesses and generate good jobs for our workers.

As the Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Finance Minister, he formulates policies that are both pro-worker and pro-business, enabling our workers to be equipped with the necessary skills to stay ahead of the curve and remain employable. Since the onset of COVID-19, he has helped many businesses stay afloat and saved workers’ livelihoods through his five decisive and incisive Budgets. Through it all, DPM Heng engages union leaders and workers regularly to listen to their concerns and explain policies to them.

DPM Heng is a firm believer of tripartism and the unions’ significant role in our workforce, business and economic transformations. In his maiden May Day Rally speech in 2019, DPM Heng reaffirmed the People’s Action Party’s commitment to tripartism. He recognised NTUC’s brand of progressive trade unionism that has been crucial in enabling our workers to stay ahead of changes.

Congratulations, DPM Heng!

“2020 has been a year of ups and downs, filled with much uncertainty and anxiety. However, 2020 was also a year where we saw the true spirit of tripartism prevail – where our government leaders and civil servants, union leaders and employers came together and stood in solidarity to help cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our workers and companies and help them explore opportunities. Honouring them at our NTUC May Day Awards is a befitting tribute to all the hard work put in to protecting and caring for our workers, both in good times and bad.” – NTUC President Mary Liew

Staying true to the NTUC60 theme of “Members First, Workers Always”

Photo Credit: NTUC

While COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on economies globally, it only served to strengthen the Labour Movement’s resolve to stand in solidarity with our workers.

Therefore, we will push ahead to champion workers’ rights, ensure they can continue to hold good jobs, and enhance their access to better wages, welfare and work prospects. 

NTUC President Mary Liew and NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng jointly made this point in their May Day message.

Union leaders held many rounds of tough negotiations with their management partners to cut costs to save jobs. Unions also persuaded employers to allow workers to take on part-time jobs or be seconded to other companies so that they could continue to earn a living and support their families.

In their May Day message, other initiatives and efforts to protect workers and save jobs were also highlighted. They include:

  • SMART (Supporting jobs, Matching workers to jobs, Advocacy, cReation of jobs, Training and competency-building) strategy to preserve jobs.
  • Fair Retrenchment Framework to guide companies on responsible retrenchment practices.
  • Ramped up efforts to pre-emptively match displaced workers to new jobs via the NTUC Job Security Council. 
  • Company Training Committees and Operation & Technology Roadmaps to work closely with companies to train and upskill workers in tandem with business transformation
  • Jointly set up PME Taskforce to help local professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), especially those in their 40s to 60s, with Singapore National Employers Federation 
  • Continued to push for the expansion and acceleration of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for lower-wage workers
  • Set up Self-Employed Person (SEP) Income Relief Scheme and the NTUC Training Fund (SEPs) with the Government
  • Reach out to protect workers in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

“Staying true to the NTUC60 theme of “Members First, Workers Always”, we will continue to provide a positive differentiation for members through initiatives like the NTUC Care Fund, the NTUC Training Fund and more, while always keeping workers at the heart of all that we do. Because #everyworkermatters, we pledge to remain steadfast in our support to workers even as we chart the years ahead together.” NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng

Brother Koh Poh Koon passes NTUC Deputy Secretary-General baton to Brother Chee Hong Tat

Thank you Brother Poh Koon & Welcome Brother Chee to the Labour Movement

Photo Credit: NTUC

Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Transport and Foreign Affairs Chee Hong Tat joined the Labour Movement as Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) effective 15 May 2021.

He will replace Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon, who is to return to the Government full-time. In the last Cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Dr Koh will be appointed Senior Minister of State for Manpower on top of his health portfolio.

Photo Credit: NTUC

In her letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, NTUC President Mary Liew highlighted that having political office holders seconded to NTUC testifies to the importance of the symbiotic relationship between NTUC and PAP. She thanked PM Lee for offering to second Brother Chee to the Labour Movement.

“Brother Chee is no stranger to us”, said Sister Mary. As the SMS for Transport, he has initiated many engagements with transport unions to ensure that the transport workers’ welfare are taken care of.

“Brother Chee has been a pro-worker and friend of SMOU. With him coming onboard as NTUC Deputy Secretary-General, we are confident that he will go all out to help our workers lead a better life.”

“As he will continue to serve as SMS for Transport, workers in the transport industry can be certain that their interests will not be overlooked,” added Sister Mary who is SMOU General Secretary.

At this year’s May Day Awards presentation, Brother Chee received the Distinguished Service Award for his strong advocacy for the interests and protection of healthcare and public transport workers. In 2018, he also took on an advisory role in NTUC U SME (Small and Medium Enterprises).

Brother Chee will also be appointed Group Director of the NTUC Training & Transformation Group, cadre member of Union of Power and Gas Employees (UPAGE), and Executive Secretary of the United Workers of Electronics & Electrical Industries. He will be relinquishing his post in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Thank you, Brother Koh Poh Koon

In her letter, Sister Mary expressed the Labour Movement’s appreciation to Brother Poh Koon for taking care of the interests of the lower-wage workers and pushing for productivity improvements.

“Brother Poh Koon has been a key member of the NTUC leadership team, driving our efforts in the Progressive Wage Model as well as training and transformation,” Sister Mary pointed out. “We are confident that Brother Poh Koon will continue to have a heart for our workers and we look forward to working with him in his new role.”