SINGAPORE - About 26 per cent of unionised companies now make an effort to represent professionals, managers, and executives (PMEs), the labour movement said on Thursday (July 7).

In an update on efforts to serve more PMEs, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said 370 out of 1,400 unionised companies from 45 unions have expanded their scope of representation for this group.

This is more than double the 150 companies from 20 unions last July, three months after amendments to the Industrial Relations Act took effect to allow collective bargaining for PMEs by unions.

Mr Tay called upon more employers to work with unions to bring their PMEs into the NTUC fold.

"As the economic and manpower landscape remain volatile, it is especially critical now that we garner greater support from employers to ensure that the growing pool of PMEs is adequately protected," he said.

"The last thing employers need is for a group of their PMEs to organise over Whatsapp or Facebook and decide not to turn up for work because they're not being paid bonuses, and this becomes an illegal strike."

Representation among the 370 companies can range from memorandums of understanding to collective bargaining agreements on issues such as retrenchment benefits, victimisation, and unfair dismissal.

Mr Tay said that in the current economic conditions, PMEs were just as, if not more, vulnerable than the rank and file whom the unions traditionally represent.

Had NTUC not evolved to reach out to PMEs, he said, the scope of union representation could have dropped by 30 to 40 per cent.

NTUC did not have available the exact number of PME members covered by union representation. It had a total of 300,000 PME union members as of August last year.

Mr Tay also said that in the new Employment Claims Tribunal, which is to be announced in upcoming months, a PME with union membership could avail themselves of support such as a mediation network between employers, NTUC and the Government.

The labour movement is also lobbying for enhanced jurisdiction such as higher claim limits, should these PMEs' cases go to the Tribunal after tripartite mediation.

NTUC has trained some 1,700 union leaders through workshops to help them better understand the diverse needs of PMEs. It has also given out 6,000 resource kits on extending union representation for executives.