Friday 28 November 2014

New guidelines show which PMEs can join unions

By Xue Jianyue, TODAY, 27 Nov 2014

As the number of white-collar workers here continues to grow, the labour movement and its tripartite partners yesterday released a set of guidelines to help determine the circumstances under which professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) are eligible for union representation.

The guidelines, released by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Manpower Ministry and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), specify ways for companies and unions to decide which PMEs qualify for collective or limited representation by unions, as well as union membership and leadership.

For example, employees should not be represented by unions if they are in senior management, or fall into certain categories of executives controlling business operations or making decisions on industrial matters.

Also excluded are those with access to confidential information such as a firm’s finances, company representatives negotiating with unions, or those in roles that may give rise to a conflict of interest.

The guidelines also state that employers and unions may agree to refer to salary levels, or the proportion of executives in the organisation, to determine whether the PMEs in question can have union representation.

The guidelines come on the heels of changes to the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill, announced in Parliament earlier this month, to allow rank-and-file unions to include managers and executives for collective representation.

If the Bill is passed in Parliament, the guidelines will come into effect from next April and are expected to pave the way for PMEs — who have been reluctant to join unions because of uncertainty over their representative powers beyond rank-and-file workers — to take up membership.

Senior Minister of State (Manpower and Health) Amy Khor, noting the growth of PMEs here, said tripartism needs to evolve in order to address future challenges.

“We need to widen the tripartism model to ensure inclusivity. The workforce profile is changing. Workplace norms are also changing. We need to be able to cater to needs of different segment of workers,” said Dr Khor on the sidelines of the Singapore Tripartism Forum’s Industrial Relations Seminar at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability.

Singapore has about 638,500 PMEs, or about 31 per cent of the resident workforce. Two in three workers are expected to be PMEs in 2030.

When asked why the guidelines did not specify a salary level or proportion of PMEs for firms and unions to use as a benchmark, NTUC assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong said the profiles of workers in companies vary.

For example, while about 50 per cent of all PMEs earn S$4,500 and below, only 30 per cent of these employees in a multinational company could be earning below that, she said. In small and medium enterprises, the figure could be as high as 80 per cent.

With the proportion of blue-collar workers in companies falling these days, the labour movement needs to look at those beyond the rank-and-file. “If those beyond the rank-and-file are not very senior in position and, again, do not hold very executive functions, then this is the group of people we are looking at,” said Ms Cham.

The labour movement is looking to represent half of all PMEs who are eligible for union membership under the guidelines, she added, although the target could vary since, in some companies, the senior management may comprise more than the usual proportion of PMEs.

Welcoming the guidelines, SNEF president Robert Yap said companies can avoid dealing with multiple unions if PMEs join Singapore’s “proven” tripartism platform instead of forming more unions.

Several unionists told TODAY that union memberships are currently open to all, including PMEs — even after the members have risen to management level. However, they noted that PMEs tended to drop out of unions after rising through the ranks since they were unsure whether the unions could still represent them.

Amalgamated Union Of Public Employees deputy general secretary Yeo Chun Fing said more PMEs are now being given supervisory roles. While they are still quite junior in the company’s hierarchy, their titles at the workplace could serve as a barrier to union representation, he added.

Mr Woon Tai Yong, an executive committee member at SIA Engineering Company Engineers and Executives Union, said unions are “all about the strength and number of voices”. A union will have stronger bargaining power with the management if it represents a larger proportion of the company’s employees, he added.

No comments:

Post a Comment