NTUC fair seeks to offer more support for freelance workers

NTUC fair seeks to offer more support for freelance workers
(2nd fom left) NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing and (left) NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Ang Hin Kee seen visiting the Future Fair Asia (aggregator) booth during the Labour Movement First "Fair for Freelancers" which brings Freelancers, Business Solution Providers and Service Aggregators Together. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY
Published: 4:00 AM, September 8, 2016

SINGAPORE — Chasing clients for payment for jobs done and getting deducted make-up pay during reservist training for National Service are just some of the common woes that freelance workers face, and they lack support in handling these challenges because they normally work alone.

To keep up with the needs of this section of the workforce, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) organised its first Fair for Freelancers yesterday. It gathered business solution providers and service aggregators who could support freelancers in accounting and administrative paperwork, and to help them connect with clients online or to collaborate with each other on projects through digital platforms.

The fair, held at the Red Dot Design Museum yesterday evening, saw more than 400 attendees, with freelance graphic designer Cheng Ren Xuan saying that the job platforms presented at the fair are convenient because potential projects could be “a click away”.

The pool of freelance workers in Singapore is estimated to be about 200,000, NTUC said, and this is expected to grow with a shift in employment norms. Member of Parliament Ang Hin Kee, who is also director of NTUC’s freelancers and self-employed unit, has been calling for greater support for this group of workers so that they may make freelance work “a viable and sustainable career option”.

In June, NTUC U Creative, together with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency and the Employment and Employability Institute, organised a Creative Freelancers Bootcamp which included a pilot programme to train freelancers in the creative industries through mentoring and workshops.

On ways to improve support for this segment of the workforce, freelance copywriter Tan Ee Jia said that the idea of a union for freelancers may be beneficial to give them stronger bargaining powers and it would be useful as a more centralised organisation to help resolve issues, such as late payments by clients.

Media professional Danial Haris, 31, who said that the deducted make-up pay during reservist training happens to him because he is a freelancer, said that freelancers should work together with government agencies to tackle challenges, but he was more cautious about the idea of having a union because he was not confident that it would have the power to protect workers’ welfare.

Going forward, NTUC said that they would be gathering feedback regarding the fair to see how it may be improved to look more into freelancers’ needs. ILIYAS JUANDA