I’ve something of an embarrassing confession.
Up till I’d begun researching for this piece, I didn’t have a hot damn clue what the acronym NTUC* stood for – much less the fact that it’s Singapore’s sole trade union centre. Are you judging me, now?
*FYI: It’s short for National Trades Union Congress.
What I had known, however, was my mum’s staunch support for all things NTUC: the NTUC Plus! card, LinkPoints, the myriad of insurance policies under NTUC Income, the fact that members enjoy decent dividends and cash rebates.
In itself, NTUC presently has over 950,000 members. That’s around 5% of Singapore’s population forking out $117 annually for the NTUC Membership Programme.
Is it worth your money, though? We take a closer look at its ecosystem of benefits and programmes.
TL;DR: Is NTUC Union Membership Worth The $117 Annual Fee?
Membership Types and Fees
As we’ve established, NTUC membership costs $117 annually – or $9 monthly from January to November, and $18 in December itself. Fees are deducted through interbank GIRO.
To successfully sign up, you’ll first need to:
- Be over 16 years of age
- Have a valid NRIC/FIN
However, it isn’t open to personnel from the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Prison Service, Auxiliary Police bodies (including Certis Cisco, Aetos and SATS) or foreign domestic workers.
Union members are split into either Ordinary Branch (OB) or General Branch (GB) membership.
You’ll automatically fall under the GB member category if your workplace has no union, meaning you’re in a position with no bargaining power.
That means you don’t get representation rights in the workplace – whether for wage negotiations or workplace issues – whereas OB members do. But more on this in a bit.
NTUC’S nEbO Membership
As an aside, students or non-working adults aged between 12 to 25 are also eligible for something called nEbO membership.
The lifestyle club sits under the youth membership arm of NTUC, and offers discounts on food, entertainment and enrichment courses, to name several.
NTUC Union Membership Benefits
Here’s what falls under the membership programme:
- NTUC Plus! Rewards Programme and Cards
- Dividends and Cash Rebates
- NTUC Members-Only Insurance Policies
- Voucher Programmes
- Representation and Legal Advice
- U Network
- Career Growth Opportunities and Advice
You’ll also find a more comprehensive overview of discounts, events and the like on the MyNTUC app.
NTUC Plus! Rewards Programme and Cards
Upon signing up as an NTUC member, you’ll automatically be added to the Plus! Rewards Programme, which includes two cards:
- The Plus! Card
- The NTUC Plus! Card
Despite their (very confusing) names, they’re in fact quite different.
It’s really quite simple to differentiate them, though: the black Plus! card doesn’t require you to be an NTUC member; conversely, the silver NTUC Plus! card does.
|Plus! Card||NTUC Plus! Card|
|Eligibility||No age limit ||> 18 years old|
|No minimum income|
|Fees||One-time $10 membership (or free if you apply through the Plus! mobile app)||$117 annually|
|Benefits||> 1,000 retail and online partner locations to earn LinkPoints at||Over $2,000 savings on daily expenses|
|Save 1.3% at FairPrice and Unity Pharmacy with min $20 spend per location||Save 5% at FairPrice with min $20 spend at FairPrice, and 2% at Unity Pharmacy|
|3 LinkPoints per litre of fuel at Caltex|
|Earn 5 LinkPoints per $1 spent at Downtown East, Wild Wild Wet and D'Resort|
|-||Earn 1% LinkPoints on NTUC union membership fee|
Besides these, you’ll also be able to sign up for the following cards for petrol discounts of up to 18.5%, extra rebates and more:
- NTUC Plus! Visa Credit Card
- NTUC Plus! Visa Debit Card
- Plus! Visa Credit Card
- Plus! Visa Debit Card
Dividends and Cash Rebates
This one’s practically a homage to all the aunties (or inner aunties) out there, because you’re literally rewarded for shopping at NTUC FairPrice.
Here’s how it works:
Present your NTUC card at point of purchase to earn cash rebates and LinkPoints (2 points per $1 spent; minimum expenditure of $20 per day with combined receipts)
For cash rebates and dividends:
To be eligible, you’ll first need to purchase at least 20 NTUC FairPrice shares at $1 each, on top of an entry fee of $3.
Rebates and dividends are determined at NTUC’s Annual General Meeting – then distributed for the first $6,000 on your annual purchases. In 2017, members enjoyed dividends of 6% of the share price, plus 4% rebates on all purchases.
We last covered these perks in our guide to supermarket rewards programmes.
NTUC Members-Only Insurance Policies
NTUC members also enjoy automatic group insurance coverage up till the age of 65 – under what’s called NTUC GIFT.
That includes coverage of up to $40,000 for death or total and permanent disability (TPD); union leaders, meantime, get double the sum assured.
If you’re looking to complement your group policy plan, LUV Term Life Insurance protects members and their spouses in cases of death or total and permanent disability, the latter up till the age of 65.
NTUC’s voucher programmes were designed specifically to help the lower income defray everyday costs. Be sure to note the application criteria – such as having a monthly household income of $1,500 or less (with no dependents), or $3,400 or less (with dependents).
The U Stretch Vouchers Programme offers a $2.50 discount off every $5 purchase at select NTUC Social Enterprises, such as Foodfare and NTUC FairPrice’s housebrands.
Then there’s the U Care Back to School (BTS) Vouchers Programme, which offsets the cost of school expenses for some 30,000 members’ children.
Representation and Legal Advice
What happens when you’re stuck in a workplace whose unethical practices have inadvertently affected you? That’s where the NTUC Workplace Advisory comes in. GB members receive advice on handling such situations from professionals at no cost.
And if you’ve personal matters that need sorting, NTUC members also enjoy free legal advice from pro bono lawyers – whether for wills or matrimonial matters. The initiative’s a collaboration between NTUC, LawWorks, and The Law Society of Singapore.
The U Network
This Labour Movement-backed initiative goes beyond NTUC’s primary function as a sole trade union.
With U Network, members are given access to training, job placement and networking opportunities. Here’s an overview of what falls under its umbrella:
|Who It's For||What It Offers|
|NTUC-Affiliated Unions and Associations||Workers||Workplace representation and protection, e.g. wrongful dismissals and retrenchment benefits|
|U Associate||Working professionals||Career and skills development across different sectors|
|U PME||Professionals, managers and executives||To educate PMEs on workplace rights and obligations|
|U SME||Small and medium enterprises||Annual SME symposiums
Conferences, training workshops, networking sessions
|U FSE||Freelancers and self-employed||Resources and networking opportunities
NTUC benefits and privileges (training grants, insurance, seminars, etc.)
All U Network members can also seek advice on workplace-related issues with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM).
Career Growth Opportunities and Advice
It’s all about lifelong learning – and just like SkillsFuture, NTUC’s Labour Movement arm aims to help working adults remain relevant in the workplace with career support advice and programmes.
|Who It's For||What You'll Get|
|The Future Leaders Programme||Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs)||Development events and programmes|
|U Creative Initiative||Creative professionals in the media industry||The chance to network and exchange ideas from like-minded individuals in its U Creative Facebook page|
|NTUC LearningHub Courses||All NTUC members||Semi-funded self-improvement courses, e.g. 'The Five Levels of Leadership' and 'Accelerating Teamwork'|
|e2i's Professional Development Programme||e2i-subsidised skills-upgrading courses across various industries|
|Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP)||50% off course fees for up to $250/year to defray training/course costs
I’d initially baulked at the thought of having to pay $117 annually for NTUC membership. Yet that works out to just $9.75 a month – which, all things considered, is reasonable if you reap the full benefits offered.
It’s definitely targeted more at families than individuals, though – and for young working adults like myself, I’d much rather stick to the free Plus! card and chalk up multiple $5 vouchers from the Health Promotion Board’s National Steps Challenge.