Monday, 21 January 2013

NTUC and LawSoc to help educate workers on legal rights

By Ian Poh, The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2013

Workers can now learn more about labour laws that affect them, under a new partnership between the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Law Society of Singapore.

Called Law Works, the initiative launched yesterday will give workers access to legal resources to help them make more informed decisions regarding employment issues.

They can tap quarterly "primer" talks, and a series of booklets summarising various areas of employment law.

Union members who register with NTUC can attend legal clinics at its centre located in One Marina Boulevard. There, lawyers will give pro bono advice on more personal matters such as wills, housing and even traffic offences.

Law Works was launched partly in response to the changing profile of the workforce, said Mr Patrick Tay, director of NTUC's legal services department and professionals, managers and executives (PME) unit.

He noted that workers are becoming more well-educated and want a better understanding of their legal rights.

Two other impetus for the initiative were feedback from union leaders, and anticipated changes to labour legislation, said Mr Tay.

For example, the Manpower Ministry is reviewing the Employment Act. And last year, the Retirement and Re-Employment Act was passed.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who spoke at yesterday's launch ceremony, agreed. He called the collaboration timely in light of the impending changes.

"Amid these changes to the labour laws, it is critical that workers not only be made aware of the existing legal position, but equally that they are apprised of such changes," he told about 200 union members, members of the legal community and other stakeholders.

He added that the focus of labour laws was to safeguard the interests of workers, as well as to help them understand their obligations and responsibilities.

Union members like Ms Lau Soy Soy, 56, praised the initiative, saying it will make the law more accessible to workers.

"The booklets are very helpful - I'm taking more than five back to the office, to share with my colleagues for quick reference," said the health-care provider.

This latest move comes after NTUC set up a legal aid team last year to advise union members who are PMEs on workplace issues.

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