Five half-baked ideas about NTUC you need to get straightened out

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It seems like everyone has a different opinion and idea of what NTUC really is and what they do. Here’s the truth.

BI-min
Jun 15, 2016

NTUC – it’s a household name in Singapore. Locals love the supermarket for its affordable grocery prices and discounts whenever they whip out their NTUC membership cards at participating retail outlets. Those with a little more financial savvy know it for the comprehensive insurance coverage that covers everything from your health plans to your car.

But NTUC – or otherwise known as the National Trades Union Congress, is much more than your supermarket or insurance provider.

So, we share with you the top five half-baked ideas most Singaporeans have about NTUC.

1. NTUC is a trade union.

Let’s get this straight – NTUC isn’t all about trade unions.

It is, however, a national confederation of trade unions, comprising 60 trade unions, two associations, 11 social enterprises and other related organisations.

NTUC acts on behalf of members of its affiliated trade in Singapore.

At present, there are about 900,000 union members who belong to one or another of these trade unions, and the majority of them are affiliated to NTUC.

NTUC continues to advocate for Singapore’s labour force by reinventing itself to meet the needs of professionals, managers, executives, freelancers, self-employed, in addition to rank and file workers.

NTUC has 31 U Associate partners – professional bodies representing more than 150,000 working people from different professions.

Through its ecosystems of unions, associates and partners, it aims to improve the protection, professional development, placement and training of workers in Singapore’s labour force.

2. NTUC is a supermarket and an insurance company.

Yes, we regularly hear statements like “Let’s go to NTUC to buy groceries” or “I buy my insurance from NTUC”.
But just in case you didn’t know already, NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Ltd is, in fact, the actual name of the supermarket chain that can be found all over Singapore.

Founded by the Labour Movement in 1973, it is a one of NTUC’s social enterprises.

In the same vein, NTUC is more than an insurance company. NTUC Income and its distinctive orange logo, like NTUC FairPrice, is also a social enterprise. It was founded in 1970 to provide affordable insurance to all workers in Singapore.

The whole truth: The reason why NTUC runs a supermarket chain and sells insurance is because of its social role to stablise prices of essential goods and services and to enhance basic financial security for the Singapore community .

Through its Social Enterprise, union, professional networks and partners, NTUC enhances workers’ economic and social needs, and protects their livelihoods. The supermarket and insurance co-operatives had their beginnings in this original intent.

3. The only benefit of being an NTUC member is cash rebates, NTUC LinkPoints, and the free gift when I sign up to be a member.

Ok, we won’t deny the linkpoints and rebates that you do get from NTUC FairPrice, or the free gift when you sign up online now as a NTUC member.

But there is more to NTUC membership than the above.

When you sign up as an NTUC member, you also gain access to workplace protection, programmes that help you stay relevant in the workforce and even opportunities to further your career.

What’s all that, you ask?

Imagine this scenario: One fine day, your boss breaks the news to you that you have been retrenched with immediate effect and you won’t be receiving retrenchment benefits. As an NTUC member, you do not have to face this stressful time by yourself.

You may seek NTUC’s help to mediate on your behalf, and negotiate for a compensation package.

Or in another scenario, imagine that you’re facing workplace conflict and need legal assistance. As a member, you can approach NTUC for help with workplace advice and attend legal clinics to help you resolve other disputes amicably.

Let’s say you’re in a stable job. But you’re stuck in your quest to climb the corporate ladder. That’s where NTUC comes in too. With the U Future Leaders Programme, NTUC aims to help members interact with leading C-suite executives and pick some of the top brains in different industries. This happens at the U Future Leaders Summit, where members can network and and learn from experienced industry leaders.

Members also have access to the union training assistance programme (UTAP) fund, which can be used for training or skills upgrading. UTAP provides 50 per cent in unfunded course fee support for up to $250 each year.

Another perk: members are entitled to a group insurance plan too. NTUC GIFT pays up to $40,000 in benefits should anything happen to you or your family members.

4. I can’t be an NTUC member if I work at a professional or managerial level.

Not true.

While blue-collar workers make up the largest group of members in trade unions, NTUC has successfully campaigned for professionals, members and executives (PMEs) to be protected in recent years.

In April 2015, the Industrial Relations Act was amended to allow PMEs to be collectively represented by all unions, giving them better protection and greater prerogatives in the workplace.

It caters specifically for this group of workers with the U PME Centre, where PMEs facing workplace disputes can go to seek help.

A PME week was also organised to equip PMEs for career progression, be it within the same industry or to prepare for a move to a new field.

In the U Associate ecosystem, NTUC members can network with professionals within and outside of their industries too. This will give PMEs more exposure and build up their work-skills knowledge that will in turn open up career opportunities.

5. NTUC membership is expensive and not worth the benefits I can get out of it.

The annual fee for an NTUC membership is a mere $117.When you sign up as a member, you will enjoy the following:

  • $250 in training benefits through the UTAP fund annually
  • Subsidised consultation rates of $15 at Healthway Medical clinics and standard drug medication at $4 per medicine. Your dependents have access to this benefit too and savings are estimated to be around $50 a year.
  • Movie vouchers at $8, which can be used any day of the week. With tickets costing up to $12 on weekends, that’s $4 savings per ticket. If you watch a movie with a friend once a month, you save $96 a year.
  • For those who spend $500 on groceries every month at NTUC FairPrice, you will earn $240 in cash rebates, credited to your bank account. That’s not including Linkpoints that you will earn to offset your other purchases from Linkpoint merchants.

Now, these savings add up to be more than the $117 in annual fee. This is exclusive of the other savings that you can enjoy all year round such as dining privileges with Pizza Hut and Gong Cha, travel privileges with Tigerair, Agoda, and even at attractions such as Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Add into the mix benefits such as workplace protection, networking opportunities and access to training programmes for professional progression, your membership is definitely worth more than the annual fee you’re paying.