About one-third of unions here have indicated that they would soon take in professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), after more than three months since laws were changed to allow rank-and-file unions to represent these white-collar workers.
These 20 unions cover about 150 companies, which make up about 10 per cent of unionised companies in Singapore.
Revealing these figures at a media briefing yesterday, labour chief Chan Chun Sing described them as “quite a promising start”.
He added that most of these companies were still at the initial stages of agreeing to allow their PMEs to be represented by unions, and that the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is working with them to provide better protection and progression frameworks for this group of employees, among other things.
Under the changes to the Industrial Relations Act, which took effect in April, rank-and-file unions can represent PMEs in collective bargaining for wages and other employment issues, such as re-employment.
Mr Chan said some companies could have concerns about whether the move would reduce their flexibility in deploying workers.
“Some of (the companies) may have the old mindset of just collective agreement and bargaining. That is one part, but not the biggest part of what we do,” he said.
He added that it was important to help companies understand how PMEs would benefit from being represented by unions, such as in terms of being given better training and progression opportunities, which, in turn, would boost companies’ ability to attract and retain skilled executives.
Commenting on the pace of PME unionisation, Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan noted that unlike rank-and-file employees, the needs of PMEs are very diverse due to varying job and pay aspirations.
By representing PMEs as a group, companies will need time to understand what is the right strategy to meet their needs.
Mr Nasordin Mohd Hashim, president of the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union, said a number of companies were still resistant to PME unionisation as “they might not be as comfortable now that there can be collective bargaining for PMEs”. His union is trying to persuade companies to allow junior executives to be represented before they progress to senior positions.
Meanwhile, the NTUC yesterday said it has organised workshops for 1,600 union leaders to help them better understand the needs of PMEs. Another 1,500 union leaders will undergo the next phase of training by next year.
Separately, Mr Patrick Tay, assistant secretary-general of the NTUC, is heading a resource group to provide support to unions and expand outreach to PMEs, among other initiatives.
news source & image credits: todayonline.com