Friday 31 August 2012

Fee rebates for older union stalwarts

By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 30 Aug 2012

FOR MR Chua Kim Soon, leaving the labour force did not mean leaving the labour movement.

The 69-year-old has remained a union member for 48 years, even after retiring in 2010.

Membership costs $9 a month. But under the new scheme, which kicks in next January, those who have been members for 10 to 19 years will get a rebate of two months' fees, or $18.

Members of 20 to 29 years' standing will get four months' fees back.

And those who have been with the labour movement for 30 years or more will get a rebate of six months' fees, or $54.

This is to "thank them for staying with us, and for us to continue serving them in their golden years", NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say said yesterday.

More than 10 of NTUC's 61 unions have committed to the rebate scheme so far.

About 7,000 members aged 65 are expected to benefit now, with another 30,000 turning 65 in the next three years.

Staying a union member is not just about benefits, but about sentimental ties as well, said Mr Chua.

But he welcomed the rebate, saying: "Without an income, having to pay the same fee as the workforce is a bit hard on us. Every cent helps."

The rebate scheme was announced last night at an annual awards ceremony to celebrate unions' recruitment efforts.

Twenty-one unions won awards for achievements such as recruiting the most members. Also recognised were 13 merchant partners, which offer discounts to NTUC members.

NTUC's membership has hit 700,000. To hit its target of a million members by 2015, it will continue reaching out to professionals, managers and executives, as well as the young, said membership director Vivek Kumar.

NTUC also wants to improve the value of membership: not just by having more merchant tie-ups, but also by securing better treatment for unionised workers than for non-unionised ones, for example higher retrenchment benefits.

"We always try to let our members know that there is a difference," said assistant secretary- general Cham Hui Fong.

One award winner which did just that was the Food, Drinks and Allied Workers' Union.

It convinced more than 80 companies to buy enhanced welfare insurance for unionised staff.

For this, it received a special recognition award last night.

Deputy general-secretary Sankaradass S. Chami said: "It took a lot of work to convince management. But it's for our members."

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