The Unseen, Unreported, Undiscussed, Understudied work



Labour Chief Chan Chun Sing highlighted how NTUC is unusual and stands out from other unions around the world in his third and latest blogpost.

But speaking to a friend who works as an Industrial Relations Officer (IRO), he shares the nitty gritty of what Singapore’s unions do for workers.

NTUC is growing in numbers


Previously, unions only took care of blue-collared rank-and-file workers. But this has changed with the NTUC slowly extending its reach to unionise PMEs as well.

This is necessary because the proportion of PMEs is growing with more of our population acquiring higher educational levels.


Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are also a major focus for the NTUC. According to Chan, 70% of Singapore’s workforce are employed in SMEs. Hence, 25 MOUs were signed covering a total of 29,070 workers across 1197 companies.

But NTUC is more than just its number of union members and union benefits.

The unseen, unreported, undiscussed, understudied work

Unions do its part to address the concerns of its members and being their voice in the face of industrial conflict. For example, if a worker feels that he or she has been unfairly dismissed or terminated, the worker can approach the union who will then raise the issue up with the HR department of the organisation in order to seek recourse for the worker. This is the ‘traditional’ way for employees covered under the Industrial Relations Act.

But what about the not-so-traditional way? For PMEs who are not unionised, NTUC has a U PME Centre, which PMEs can approach for help and practical advice to seek recourse.

Of course, apart from just representation on employment matter, unions also do a lot more.

As part of the tripartite partners, the NTUC has representatives sitting on the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP). The committee promotes the adoption of fair, responsible and progressive employment practices among employers, employees and the public.


As such, the unions are also the voice against discriminatory practices at the workplace. On top of that, the NTUC has also been championing the fight against workplace harassment, such as workplace abuse, sexual harassment and other forms of workplace malpractices.

Indeed, there might be an evil that goes unreported, undiscussed and understudied in our labour market. But actually, things are being looked after by our unions, albeit unreported, undiscussed and understudied. All the work is done behind the scenes and where trumpets are not blown to announce victories and KPIs met.


Everyone knows the ubiquitous ‘U’ in the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

Who knew, that behind the scene, the ‘U’ – that is us workers – are at the heart of it all.

No wonder, the NTUC is unusual.


Image Credits: Yahoo SG, Labourbeat, Channel NewsAsia, Asiaone.

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Arthur Lee

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