In October 2013, the Singapore Industrial & Services Employees Union (SISEU) received news that one of its branches had to cease its operations in Singapore and retrench all its workers.
Fortunately, SISEU has a standing “Collective Agreement” in place with a retrenchment clause that provided for benefits for the workers in the event of retrenchment, or if the company undergoes receivership.
The Collective Agreement is a legally enforced document that protects workers over and above what the Employment Act provides for.
During the initial stages of the negotiations, there was much uncertainty over the company’s ability to pay the benefits in view of their financial difficulties. The company had wanted to pay only when it sells its assets over time.
SISEU did not agree to this. The company’s assets were closely monitored. Each time management was able to raise funds from selling their assets, the union would work with the management to assign payment to retrenched workers.
A number of union members were also offered employment via NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute.
In short, union membership is kind of like insurance – it protects you for when you need it most.
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