I had 1 observation from the recently concluded May Day Rally.
And that the NTUC is a rather new and different NTUC under the leadership of Labour Chief Chan Chun Sing.
The 46 year-old former Chief of Army took over the helm from Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say in May last year.
But what is so different and new about it?
On the outside, it seems nothing much has changed, although it did go through a major change of the NTUC Central Committee since the National Delegates’ Conference (NDC) which took place in October 2015.
What has changed, is the inclusion of associate members and partners into its membership.
And it is rather unusual of a labour movement to go that way…
In fact, according to the NTUC, 31 professional bodies (U Associates) with 200,000 members and about 70,000 workers in 3,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (U SMEs) are now partnering the labour movement.
In their joint May Day message, both NTUC President Mary Liew and Chan said that whilst NTUC will continue to offer its traditional services of workplace representation and protection of rank-and-file workers, the labour movement will need to expand its suite of services to include professional development, training, placement and networking.
Traditionally, unions could only cater to rank-and-file and blue-collared workers.
But with an increasing number of PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians), the labour movement has to evolve its services to meet new needs and demands in order to stay relevant.
In addition, the NTUC also is already in the process of bringing in more Freelancers and Self-Employed into its base.
While these associate members do not pay union membership fees like traditional union members, they can still enjoy union services such as training on a “Pay per use” basis.
You might ask why there is a need for the NTUC to expand its reach beyond just the rank-and-file workers.
At the last NDC, Chan had already outlined the changing business environment, employment landscape and workers’ needs as the challenges facing the labour movement.
With an increasing number of PMETs, the labour movement needs a different way of meeting the needs of this group of workers.
One unique service the NTUC can provide is networking opportunities for PMETs.
According to statistics, PMETs are more interested networking and career counselling more than just collective bargaining, which is what the U Associates programme is doing.
By tapping on the vast and growing network, PMETs can network with peers and business leaders in order to advance in their career.