Labour movement must transform itself to tackle job challenges: DPM Heng Swee Keat

SINGAPORE – The labour movement will have to transform itself to tackle present and future concerns about jobs, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Wednesday (Nov 17).

First, it must work more directly with companies to transform their businesses so that their workers can succeed, he said.

And as the labour market changes, it should serve more workers by expanding its outreach and addressing workers’ lifelong needs holistically.

The labour movement will also need to garner broader support from Singaporeans, he added.

Mr Heng was addressing unionists, tripartite partners and other guests at NTUC’s Ordinary Delegates’ Conference.

The one-day conference aimed to review the labour movement’s progress in supporting members and workers since its previous edition in 2019.

Some 750 people attended online while 500 were physically present at Resorts World Sentosa.

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said that since 2019, the trade union has done “good and practical work that brings real difference to workers”.

Citing some examples, he noted that NTUC has called for retirement and re-employment ages to be raised, as well as for improvements to Central Provident Fund contributions to proceed despite challenges amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The union has also played a role in expanding the progressive wage model to new sectors, including waste management, retail and food and beverage.

The tripartite partners – comprising NTUC, the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and the Ministry of Manpower – on Wednesday launched an online learning app that provides on-the-go and bite-sized content for training and upskilling.

Developed by NTUC LearningHub, the Learning eXperience Platform app currently has over 75,000 courses.

It can be downloaded free of charge but a subscription is required to gain access to the courses.

The subscription fee is $10 a month, but union members need pay only $5 a month.

However, all subscribers can use their SkillsFuture Credit to fully offset these amounts.

Mr Heng noted that the learning needs of workers have evolved, with more looking beyond job-specific training.

“They want to learn and develop more broadly, and they have more diverse interests,” he said.

“The way we learn has also evolved. Most of us have got used to going about many aspects of our daily lives online by now, including digital learning. Learning has also become more interactive and more modular,” he added, urging workers to make use of the new app.

The app can also serve as an online learning management system for businesses with Company Training Committees.

These businesses can create job-specific content, put them on the platform, and track the progress of their workers.

Said Mr Heng: “This is one example of how the labour movement brings together different parts of its eco-system in a more complete way – driving transformation and building capabilities through the Company Training Committees, and helping workers grow through (the app).”

SNEF president Robert Yap said the push for workers’ skills upgrading through the new app will complement companies’ efforts to stay nimble and navigate the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“(Companies) are eager to review, rethink and reset their business strategies and operations to recover and grow,” Dr Yap said.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng added: “As our economy restructures and recovers from Covid-19, our workforce needs to develop the right skills to meet the changing needs of industries and businesses.

“This requires a tripartite effort to reskill and upskill our workers.”

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