NTUC chief Ng Chee Meng calls on more employers to raise workers' retirement age

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
Chief Executive Officer Felix Loh (fifth from left) and management partners from Gardens by the Bay; NTUC Secretary-General  Ng Chee Meng (in red); President Hassan Abdullah (fourth from left) and fellow union leaders from AREU, after signing of the MOU on 25 July, 2018. (PHOTO: NTUC)

Labour chief Ng Chee Meng on Wednesday (25 July) called on more employers to raise the retirement age of workers. 

Ng was speaking at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Gardens by the Bay and the Attractions and Resorts & Entertainment Union (AREU) to raise the retirement age beyond the mandatory age of 62 to 65 for employees in Gardens, effective 1 January next year.

Given the country’s looming manpower shortage, the Secretary-General of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) described the Gardens’ initiative as a “triple win situation” for Gardens, its workers, and the larger society as well as “a right move” in Singapore.

“Singapore is aging and manpower will definitely be a problem in the future. Now that (Gardens is) taking proactive steps, I hope other employers will follow (its) lead,” said Ng.

He added that NTUC will meet with the Ministry of Manpower and Singapore National Employers’ Federation next week to set clearer guidelines for retirement and re-employment ages in Singapore.

Among the issues that will be discussed to protect the interests and welfare of mature workers include retirement age in relation to wages as well as CPF issues that these workers are concerned with, Ng said.

While a deadline for the review has not been set, Ng added, “We are working hard with our partners to set good review parameters so that we can actually plan out what can be a longer-term standard in this employment regime for mature workers.”

In 1999, the retirement age was raised from 60 to 62. From 1 July last year, companies must offer re-employment to eligible employees up to age 67 – up from 65 previously.

Speaking on the Gardens initiative, CEO Felix Loh said, “In our landscape sector, we place a premium on skills and knowledge, which we think improves with maturity.”

“(For instance), orchid breeding is a long-term process. It takes about 10 years to build a good cultivar…We do need (mature workers) to help build a long-term pipeline if we want to continue to see Singapore as a city in a garden.”

About 20 unionised companies in Singapore have either raised their retirement ages beyond the mandatory age of 62 or do not stipulate any retirement age in their employment contracts.

Among them, the Singapore American School, ComfortDelGro and Bukit Timah Saddle Club have extended the retirement ages while Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay does not state a retirement age in employment contracts for its staff, said NTUC.

The majority of these companies, including Gardens, re-employ mature workers without adjusting salaries and benefits.

Opened in 2012, Gardens currently employs 360 workers, out of whom 20 are above the age of 60, with the oldest being at 78.

Abdul Aziz Ismail, an engineering manager at Gardens who turned 61 last month, will be among five workers affected by the initiative.

With Wednesday’s announcement, Abdul Aziz, who had retired previously from ST Synthesis in 2012 before joining Gardens in 2014, now plans to extend his stint at the company, possibly until the age of 65.

“(The higher retirement age) is a relief and a very happy moment,” said Abdul Aziz, who was initially preparing to retire soon.

“Working in Gardens, it energises me because of the challenges we face to make sure the visitors are happy and the place is well-maintained,” he added. “It is a satisfying job when we drive past Gardens and see visitors…cheerful, taking photos.”

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