Every Worker Matters: 5 Significant Areas The Labour Movement Pushed For In 2021

low wage workers

2021 was probably a year that flew by for most, especially in the midst of a pandemic. As 2021 comes to a close, we round up 5 significant areas for the Labour Movement this year and re-look at the policies they have pushed for. 

Making mental wellbeing a priority for workers

With work from home being the default for a good part of 2021, the lines between work and life were blurred. This has resulted in many workers being unable to set distinct boundaries to separate their time outside of work and hence heightened feelings of burnout. 

Labour MP Melvin Yong mooted a “Right To Disconnect” law – which would let workers and employers negotiate a protocol for non-emergency and non-critical work outside of working hours. He also emphasised that the Labour Movement pushed for a Work-Life Harmony policy to be included in the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being at Workplaces. The advisory has practical guidance on measures that employers can adopt to support their employees’ mental well-being while providing resources employers, employees and self-employed persons can tap on. It also encourages employers to provide clarity on after-hours work communication so as to safeguard employee’s mental wellbeing.

Looking after the interests of a growing pool of workers – freelancers 

A Ministry of Manpower report showed that there were over 200,000 freelancers in Singapore and that number is set to continually increase with the advent of the gig economy. Freelancers are also the pool of workers that are more vulnerable as they are typically not accorded the same benefits and protection compared to a salaried employee. With COVID-19 hitting all sectors of the economy, many freelancers also fell on hard times. 

2021 saw the Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit supporting and pushing out various schemes and grants aimed at helping freelancers. The NTUC U FSE Relief Scheme offered a cash relief to eligible members such as combi bus, limousine and delivery drivers and riders who have had their income affected by COVID-19. The one-off relief was also meant to help cushion the petrol duty increase that affected these freelancers. 

The National Delivery Champions Association (NDCA) was also formed a year ago to represent the voice of and look after the welfare of freelancers whose main source of income is from delivery. Besides organising a Safe Riding Programme (SRP) with Land Transport Authority, the NCDA quickly partnered with various organisations to set aside rest and dining areas for delivery riders and drivers when the Government instituted no dining in for food establishments. 

 2022 will continue to see the Labour Movement better support freelancers in different areas!

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Uplifting lower wage workers is a key focus area for the Labour Movement

With an increased importance placed on fostering an inclusive society, the Labour Movement continues to take the lead when it comes to pushing for the welfare of lower wage workers. 

The Progressive Wage Model (PWM) has been championed by the Labour Movement since 2012 and has benefitted over 80,000 workers. Many of these are in sectors such as cleaning, security and landscaping and the PWM helps to map out clear career pathways for wages to increase alongside improvements in productivity and upgrading of skills.

With lower wage workers more vulnerable to the economic uncertainties brought about by COVID-19, this year saw the formation of the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers. Led by SMS Zaqy, this work group also includes union leaders and industry leaders and aims to sustainably uplift the wages and welfare of lower wage workers. The Labour Movement will play a pivotal role in contributing to the recommendations that will be released in due course.

“This work group will give us the opportunity to continue to look after our workers… It is a work in progress. There are many sectors that we need to continue to reach out to, to help them understand the benefit of the PWM.” Mr Mohd Fahmi Aliman, Director of operations and mobilisation division secretariat at the National Trades Union Congress

Helping women in the workplace 

With Singapore being a society that promotes equal opportunities for both genders and one that seeks to level the playing field for both men and women, Labour MP Yeo Wan Ling spoke in Parliament about supporting women such that they are able to fulfill both work and family responsibilities. She made the case that COVID-19’s work-from-home situation offered an opportunity to redesign jobs that allowed women to meaningfully partake in work while being able to be present at home. 

The Labour Movement championed the Tripartite Standard on Work-Life Harmony, which made recommendations to employers on policies and schemes that help employees achieve work-life harmony. Recommendations included enhanced leave benefits, staggered starting and ending timings and job-sharing while urging progressive employers to consider applying the concept of work-life harmony to men as well.

The Labour Movement’s PME taskforce to champion the strengthening of the Singaporean core

Ng Chee Meng
A National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) taskforce has sent up nine proposals in support of local workers and to ensure fair practices in the workplace.

One of the key thrusts of the professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) taskforce is to help strengthen the Singaporean core through enhancing the Fair Consideration Framework, improving human resources standards, relooking at a more stringent employment pass application process and other areas to support PMEs in their career or through their involuntary unemployment.

With the percentage of PMEs in the workforce gradually increasing, this will be a space to watch as support for this group is strengthened!

Looking forward to 2022  

The Labour Movement has made great strides in 2021 as they sought to look after the welfare of several more vulnerable segments of workers. With the Labour Movement continuing to partner the Government and employers in championing workers, we can expect steady progress towards an inclusive society and upward mobility for all workers!