Did you grow up thinking “NTUC” was a supermarket? So did every other Singaporean.
But guess what, NTUC actually stands for National Trades Union Congress rather than Not Too Unaffordable Comestibles.
Traditionally, trade unions fight to protect the workers under their wing. People join unions because the latter have more resources than an individual to do things like negotiate higher salaries, hire lawyers and yes, organise strikes to demand better working conditions.
While unions typically have an adversarial relationship with the government and corporations, Singapore’s pro-business environment skews the dynamics considerably. NTUC operates as a tripartite partner with the Ministry of Manpower and the Singapore National Employers Federation. This means NTUC tries to work together with the government and employers, rather than against them, to find solutions for workers.
In these dreary economic times where job security is as shaky as a primary school kid’s milk teeth, we need all the help we can get. NTUC may not be able to provide the kinds of advantages that “traditional” unions are known for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from what they do offer.
What is the NTUC Membership all about?
NTUC is a confederation of trade unions encompassing over 70 unions and professional associations and organisations.
There are two tiers of membership:
- Ordinary Branch — You are represented by the Union in wage negotiation and workplace issues. You also enjoy social benefits such as FairPrice rebates, NTUC LinkPoints and chalets.
- General Branch — You are NOT represented in wage negotiations and workplace issues. However, you enjoy the same social benefits as Ordinary Branch members.
The only way you can become an Ordinary Branch member is if your employer or workplace is part of a union and your job is one that the union can bargain on behalf of. Otherwise, you can only be a General Branch member.
There are several benefits of which the more obvious tangible rewards include earning LinkPoints through the NTUC Plus! Rewards Programme, dividends and cash rebates from NTUC FairPrice, NTUC insurance coverage and discounts, and so on.
“So, you’re telling me that if my employer is not a union member, all I can get out of my NTUC membership are grocery rebates?” Not exactly. That’s where other non-monetary benefits come in.
These are the career- and employment-focused benefits that try to improve your lot as a worker in Singapore. They include the NTUC Workplace Advisory online service, free legal clinics where you have 20 minutes to ask for basic legal advice, and employability programmes such as those conducted by e2i (Employment and Employability Institute).
Some NTUC programmes designed to offer assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic include: the NTUC Training Fund (Self-Employed Persons) which offers a training allowance of up to $10 to self-employed persons to go for training courses, and the NTUC Care Fund which offered a one-off cash payout to NTUC members who were retrenched.
Before we go into the details, NTUC Membership does come at a fee. Let’s take a look.
NTUC Membership fee and benefits at a glance
|Annual subscription fee||$117 ($9 per month from Jan to Nov and $18 in Dec)|
|Eligibility||Be at least 16 years of age with a valid NRIC/FIN number.Must not be working for the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Prison Service or Auxiliary Police bodies (Cisco, AETOS and SATS), or be a foreign domestic worker|
|Rewards programme||NTUC Plus!|
|Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP)||Receive up to 50% off course fee support (capped at $250 per year, or $500 for those aged 40 and above) for eligible courses.|
|Insurance||Complimentary group coverage of up to $40,000|
|Member perks||Discounts on F&B, retail, social enterprises|
NTUC Plus! Rewards Programme
There’s nothing more Singaporean than collecting points and redeeming rewards at supermarkets. That is why the Plus! Rewards Programme, by NTUC subsidiary NTUC Link, is one of the best-known benefits associated with NTUC.
Earn LinkPoints when you shop at partner merchants like NTUC FairPrice, Unity Pharmacy, Cheers, Caltex and StarHub, and then use your LinkPoints to offset your next purchase.
Every 150 LinkPoints earned is worth $1.
NTUC Union members get an NTUC Plus! card (silver).
This is not to be confused with the Plus! card (black), which is for customers of NTUC’s Social Enterprises. You don’t need to be a union member to apply for it and there are no annual fees or be of a certain age to apply for the Plus! card.
Comparison of NTUC Plus! Card, Plus! Card, NTUC Plus! Visa debit/credit card & Plus! Visa debit/credit card
|NTUC Plus! (silver, union members only)||Plus! (black, non-union members)||NTUC Plus! Visa debit/credit card (union members only)||Plus! Visa credit/debit card (black, non-union members)|
|FairPrice and Unity Pharmacy savings||5.3%||1.33%||Up to 12%||7%|
|Accelerate LinkPoints earn rate with selected Plus! partners||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Fuel savings||No||No||Instant 18% off at Caltex, up to 18.5% off at Esso||Instant 18% off at Caltex, up to 18.5% off at Esso|
|1.3% savings at Cheers||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
How to claim NTUC LinkPoints
Flash your NTUC Plus! card or NTUC Plus! debit/credit card when you shop at partner merchants and you’ll earn LinkPoints at the following rates:
- 2 LinkPoints for every $1 spent at all FairPrice supermarkets (minimum spending of $20 in receipts issued on same day)
- 150 LinkPoints for every $1 spent on daily essentials
To redeem your points, just flash your NTUC Plus! Card or NTUC Plus! debit/credit card at the point of purchase and LinkPoints will be used to offset the cost of your next purchase.
Check out how Plus! measures up to other supermarket/grocery loyalty programmes here.
Upskill with Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP)
An NTUC membership also gives you access to the Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP), which defrays the cost of job skills training for NTUC members.
UTAP will pay for 50% of course fees (after deduction of government subsidies, and excluding GST, registration fees, miscellaneous fees and so on) of eligible courses.
The following limits apply:
- Up to $250 per year for NTUC members aged under 40
- Up to $500 per year for NTUC members aged 40 and above (until 31 Dec 2022)
Only UTAP-eligible courses qualify for course fee support.
When you take selected NTUC LearningHub courses eligible for UTAP support, you enjoy upfront UTAP claims. This means the UTAP training benefit will be deducted from your bill before you pay for the course.
For courses that do not benefit from upfront UTAP, applications for UTAP claims can be made through your U Portal account within 6 months of your course’s conclusion.
Ensure workplace protection
Having a dispute with your employer? NTUC will not organise a strike for you, but they do have a workplace advisory service for members. If you are experiencing a dispute at work or facing some kind of workplace issue, you can seek advice from NTUC. They even have a Workplace Advisory app so you can seek advice on the go using your smartphone.
Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs) can also go through a dispute resolution process with support from the tripartite partners, including NTUC. This is a cheaper and quicker way to resolve disputes than going to court.
Free group insurance coverage: NTUC GIFT
Union members are also automatically covered by NTUC GIFT, a group insurance policy those under 65 years.
The policy offers life insurance coverage of up to $40,000. That means you or your family will receive a payout of up to $40,000 if you die or suffer from total/partial and permanent disability. If you have a spouse under 65 years, he or she will also receive free insurance coverage in the event of death and total and permanent disability.
If you wish to beef up your life insurance protection, NTUC Income’s LUV is a term life insurance policy exclusive to NTUC members. Members can also apply for their spouse and children.
Receive cash rebates and dividends
NTUC members are eligible for 4% cash rebates on up to $6,000 worth of purchases a year at NTUC FairPrice and Unity Pharmacy. You will also be eligible for NTUC FairPrice dividends.
You will need to first register as an NTUC FairPrice member by subscribing for 20 shares at $1 each, and paying a one-time fee of $3. Should you cancel your membership, the shares will be refundable.
Alternatively, the “Join Now Pay Later” scheme lets you join without paying anything, and deducts the $23 fee through cash rebates earned.
Gain access to the U Network
U Network is a network comprising NTUC’s affiliated unions and associations and partners. The network offers members a suite of services including professional development, training, job placement and networking.
These include U Associate, a networking initiative across different sectors, U PME, which educates PMEs about their workplace rights and obligations and empowers them with professional development programmes, and U FSE (Freelancers and Self-Employed) which provides freelancers with resources, networking opportunities, seminars, training grants and insurance.
Fair Retrenchment Framework
As of Aug 2020, NTUC has introduced a Fair Retrenchment Framework that sets out fair and responsible retrenchment practices for employers.
The framework outlines three main principles — protecting the Singaporean core, preserving jobs and providing job support. More details here.
Have you considered getting an NTUC membership? Tell us why in the comments below!
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