How does running businesses help NTUC fight for workers’ rights?

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Have you ever asked this question: If the NTUC is protecting the workers’ rights at the workplace, why on earth is it running businesses such as FairPrice supermarkets, Income insurance policies, Unity pharmacies and so on?


Prior to the 1970s, NTUC was focused on negotiating collective agreements and fighting cases in the Industrial Arbitration Court. In November 1969, a four-day Modernisation of the Labour Movement seminar was organized by the NTUC, to strengthen the labour movement which was said to have entered a state of decay due to falling membership and dissatisfaction among the rank-and-file.


Then in the 1970s, NTUC formed various co-operatives such as the NTUC Welcome Supermarket (now known as FairPrice) and Income. Over the years, new social enterprises such as the NTUC Unity Pharmacies and NTUC Eldercare sprung up, to keep essential goods and services affordable for union members and Singaporeans.

In fact, in 1973, food prices sky-rocketed as a result of a global oil crisis. The NTUC Welcome supermarket was thus launched to stabilise the cost of living and prevent profiteering.

However, why does the NTUC need to have such social enterprises?

By definition, a social enterprise has two goals: to achieve social, cultural, community economic or environmental outcomes; and, to earn revenue.

And indeed, the NTUC’s social enterprises achieve these two goals: Earning revenue and achieving a social and community economic outcomes.


At the launch of a “Big Value Bag: Made for Singapore” programme, NTUC Secretary General Chan Chun Sing highlighted that the goal of the NTUC’s social enterprises is to take care of all Singaporeans and their basic needs. “When prices increase fast, NTUC will moderate prices so that all can afford it,” said Chan.

The main reason behind it all, is the welfare and concerns of union members who are workers like you and I. To better allow workers to stretch their dollar and save more when buying good s and services, the NTUC Social Enterprises keep prices affordable. To ensure that Singaporeans get easy access to insurance policies, NTUC income ensures that policies are kept reasonable.


“The aim is to keep prices of basic necessities affordable so that no Singaporean needs to fear their cost of living and their insurance.”

– NTUC Secretary General Chan Chun Sing


Big Bag of Value


To further carry out the mission, the “Big Value Bag: Made for Singapore” initiative will run from July till end December 2015. The $35 million programme will benefit Singaporeans from all segments of the population, such as the low-income, middle class (PMETs), and the elderly. It comprises of discounts and savings on daily essentials, cooked food, health products and insurance plans.


The contents in the Big Value Bag comprised of daily essentials from NTUC FairPrice, Cooked food sold at NTUC Foodfare, deals from NTUC Income and health supplements from NTUC Health’s Unity Pharmacies.

As Chan puts it, the package of deals and discounts will make essential products more affordable for Singaporeans and enable them to make every cent count.





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