National Trades Union Congress
|Full name||National Trades Union Congress|
|Founded||6 September 1961|
|Key people||Mary Liew, President
Chan Chun Sing, Secretary-General
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), also known as the Singapore National Trades Union Congress (SNTUC), is the sole national trade union centre in Singapore. It currently has 60 affiliated trade unions and 1 affiliated taxi association. Together with affiliated unions, it helms Labour Day celebrations and organises an annual rally in support of worker's solidarity and commitment to tripartite partnership.
NTUC was created in 1961 when the Singapore Trades Union Congress (STUC), which had backed the People's Action Party (PAP) in its successful drive for self-government, split into the pro-PAP NTUC and the leftist Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU). The SATU collapsed in 1963 following the government's detention of its leaders during Operation Coldstore and its subsequent official deregistration on 13 November 1963, leaving NTUC as the sole trade union centre. Presently, over 98% of union members are in unions affiliated with the NTUC.
After the PAP's decisive electoral victory in 1968, the government passed the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act of 1968, which severely limited workers' rights to strike. From 1969, the NTUC adopted, in its own words, "a cooperative, rather than a confrontational policy towards employers."
Relations between PAP and NTUC are very close, and have often resulted in members holding office in both organisations at the same time. The NTUC's founder, Devan Nair, was a PAP stalwart and later served as President of Singapore. Ong Teng Cheong, the first directly elected President of Singapore, was both the NTUC Secretary-General, and the Deputy Prime Minister (from 1985), until his presidential election. Lim Boon Heng and Lim Swee Say, the previous Secretaries-General, are also members of parliament. As of 4 May 2015, Chan Chun Sing took over as Secretary-General from Lim Swee Say who left NTUC to become Minister for Manpower (with effect from the same date). Mr Zainudin Nordin is the Director of NTUC care and share while Seah Kian Peng is NTUC faiprice director
Trade unions in Singapore
Trade unions in Singapore are run along democratic lines, and membership is voluntary. Major decisions on industrial actions are taken only with majority support expressed through secret ballot.
There are three tiers of union leadership, all elected via secret ballot. Workers in a company elect their branch leaders. The next layer is the executive committee of a union. Officials from the executive committee are drawn from the branches. At the national level, there is the Central Committee of the NTUC. The 21-member Central Committee is elected every four years.
Union leaders and employers serve on key institutions such as the National Wages Council, the Economic Development Board, the Central Provident Fund and the Singapore Productivity and Standards Board. Government and employer representatives also serve on the boards of the cooperatives, business ventures and other organisations controlled by NTUC.
NTUC Executive Committee
At union headquarters level, key branch officials represent their branches at Union Headquarters as delegates. They have a right to vote or stand as candidates in elections to the Union Executive Committee which is responsible for the effective operation of the union.
Affiliated unions are represented at the NTUC Delegates Conference, the supreme authority of the labour movement. The Delegates Conference is held once in two years. During this conference, delegates review the work of the NTUC and map out future directions for the labour movement.
The NTUC Central Committee
At the national level, once in four years, the union delegates elect a 21-member NTUC Central Committee to oversee the work of the labour movement. The Central Committee members elect among themselves the Secretary-General, the President, the Secretary for Financial Affairs (Treasurer) and Vice-Presidents. The Central Committee appoints other principal office bearers.
Union leadership includes members of parliament. These members of parliament are subject to elections, just as the other grassroots unionists are. Many other members of parliament, including Cabinet Ministers, serve as union advisors.
NTUC Social Enterprises
The objectives of NTUC Social Enterprises are:
- to help stabilise prices of basic commodities and services
- to strengthen and protect the purchasing power of workers
- to allow union leaders to gain management experience, and to understand the problems faced by management, thus helping to promote better labour-management relations
The list of our social enterprise includes:
- NTUC Unity
- NTUC Choice Homes
- NTUC Club
- NTUC FairPrice
- NTUC First Campus
- NTUC Foodfare
- NTUC Health
- NTUC Income
- NTUC LearningHub
- NTUC Link
- NTUC Thrift & Loan
- Mercatus Co-operative
- NTUC Care and Share
- Singapore Labour Foundation (SLF)
- Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute (OTC Institute)
- e2i (Employment & Employability Institute)
- Consumers' Association of Singapore (CASE)
Additionally, the NTUC has an Administration and Research Unit (ARU) to carry out work related to and supporting Industrial Relations. Within the ARU, the Secretary-General functions as the Director-General. The Director-General is assisted by Divisional Directors, each of whom is in charge of a cluster of departments.
In May 2010, the total Union Membership figure in Singapore was 555,000. There are two main groups of members: Ordinary Branch (OB) members are directly represented by the unions/affiliates and enjoy direct collective bargaining rights, while General Branch (GB) members, who work in non-unionised companies, cannot be represented directly but are given workplace advice and whose employment issues are still handled professionally. NTUC also works with social enterprises like NTUC FairPrice and NTUC Link, as well as partners like NTUC Club and NTUC Healthcare to provide a range of core and lifestyle benefits for all of its members.
Since 2002, executives are also permitted to join the NTUC membership base, which was traditionally composed of rank-and-file employees. Apart from lifestyle benefits, they also enjoy some representation (if they are employed in unionised companies).
Established in 2005, Young NTUC is the youth wing of Singapore's National Trades Union Congress. Aimed at attracting younger workers into unions, Young NTUC is part of the organisation's efforts to project a more vibrant, modern and youthful image and, at the same time, remain relevant and representative of the workforce.
With a base of about 150,000 young members, Young NTUC is, by far, the largest youth movement in Singapore, as compared to Young PAP and the People's Association's Youth Movement. It enables younger members and unionists to participate and be actively involved in the various levels and activities of the labour movement, sharing ideas, views and concerns with their peers, as well as senior leaders of NTUC and affiliated unions.
The movement's signature events include RUN350, a green movement aimed at reducing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
List of leaders of NTUC
|Secretary-General||Term of office||President||Term of office||Chairman||Term of office|
|Devan Nair||1961–1965||Ho See Beng||1962–1964||Mahmud Awang||1961|
|ST Nagayan||1965–1966||RA White||1966–1967||Ho See Beng||1962–1964|
|Ho See Beng||1966–1967||Peter Vincent||1967–1970||Phey Yew Kok||1979|
|Seah Mui Kok||1967–1970||Phey Yew Kok||1970–1979||Yu-Foo Yee Shoon||1980–1985|
|Devan Nair||1970–1979||Devan Nair||1979–1981||Position abolished|
|Lim Chee Onn||1979–1983||Peter Vincent||1981–1985|
|Ong Teng Cheong||1983–1993||George Chua||1985–1986|
|Lim Boon Heng||1993–2006||Oscar Oliveiro||1986–1997|
|Lim Swee Say||2007–2015||John de Payva||1997–2011|
|Chan Chun Sing||2015–present||Diana Chia||2011–2015|
Notes and references
- ICTUR; et al., eds. (2005). Trade Unions of the World (6th ed.). London, UK: John Harper Publishing. ISBN 0-9543811-5-7.
- NTUC (4 September 2007). "NTUC Union Membership Core Benefits". NTUC.
- Anil Verma, Thomas A. Kochan, Russell D. Lansbury. "Employment relations in the growing Asian economies". 
- "Little by Little, Step by Step. Celebrating 50 years of Labour Movement" (pdf). NTUC. May 2011.