Seacare Singapore Union's Co-operative Solution to Unemployment (1997)

This document has been made available in electronic
Format by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
Dec., 1997
(Source: Co-op Dialogue, Vol.7, No.3, Sept-Dec.1997,
pp. 1-3)

Seacare Singapore union's co-operative solution to
Unemployment by Allie Irvine
The trade union Singapore Organisation of Seamen sees
the co-operative model as a solution to the crisis of
unemployment facing their members.

Seacare Co-operative Limited is jointly owned by SOS and
the National Trade Union Congress  the largest trade union
in Singapore that initiates co-operative organisation in
all spheres.

The co-operative was formed two years ago in response to
the needs of SOS members, some of  whom had been displaced
from jobs aboard ships. SOS sought to create job
opportunities for their members at sea and ashore.

The co-operative owns Seacare Holdings Ltd., which has
launched six services ranging from manpower, to courier,
to maintenance, to cleaning and laundry services. New
subsidiaries to provide shipping agency, registration and
crew management, housekeeping services and a medical centre
are in the works.

In its first year of operation, Seacare found work for 400
displaced seafarers.

In July 1995, Seacare Co-operative had only 13 ordinary
members apart from the founder member and institutional
member. One year later, there were 979 ordinary members,
who together own slightly more than one-quarter of the
co-operative's shares.

Kelvin Chin, manager of Seacare Courier Services, hopes
business will grow by 10 per cent each month. "It is not
an easy target as the competition is tough, but I am
positive we will hit it. We have to penetrate the market
as soon as possible," he said in SOS's Samudra 1996 annual

The new courier company provides:
-	ad-hoc courier services
-	express service (within 3 hours)
-	normal service (within office ours)
-	short or long-term contractual dispatch services
-	van delivery service

In addition to telemarketing and direct mail, Chin makes
cold calls to potential customers. This is how he won a
contract with INCOME's Maid Insurance Scheme to deliver
work permits directly to employers at home.

The company is now expanding its pool of dispatch riders
and plans to build a sales team.

Time is everything to Lee Van Chong and the team at Seacare
Manpower Services.

"Ships usually dock for only a few days in Singapore before
they have to sail off on schedule to meet another
destination. So, within that few days, we have to provide
the workers to undertake and complete whatever jobs that
need to be done such as repair or cleaning. 

The same goes for schools, where positions of librarians,
lab technicians and clerks have to be filled instantly.
There is a sense of urgency in every case," Van Chong said.

Seacare Manpower Services provides:
*	Marine personnel:
*	shipping management and executive staff
*	ad-hoc seafarers placement
*	relief seafarers
*	travel, repair and maintenance crew
*	port limit placement
*	marina services crew
*	Non-marine personnel:
*	local and foreign skilled and unskilled workers
*	office administration staff
*	foreign domestic maids

The company has created 2,200 person days since it began
operations last October.  It also signed 300 contracts
with schools to fill 600 part time job placements to date.

Finding the right person for the job isn't always easy.
"It is not an easy task to find workers and to find them
urgently. However, we have created a ready pool of manpower
where at the word, `go,' they will be mobilised. Even
before the need arises, we are already out there looking
for workers," he said.

Seacare Co-operative Manager David Sim keeps close contact
with displaced seafarers.  He has their home and pager
numbers and calls them regularly to confirm their
availability. Sulena Supaat has her own source of workers to 
cater to the needs of schools.

The company is now looking for new manpower opportunities,
like supplying foreign maids and crews for port limit
placements, and providing rotational crews to maintain

One worker described his experience with the company.
"After being retrenched from my previous job as a
production worker,  I approached different employment
agencies but none could help me until someone recommended
me to Seacare Manpower Services.  I got a job immediately
as a laboratory assistant in Hwa Chong Junior college. 

I left soon after because I could not agree with the smell
of chemicals and Seacare Manpower Services again almost
instantly got me another job as a library attendant. I am
happy working here and I am indebted to Seacare Manpower
Services," said Vasantha Kumari, a working mother.

Long-time S.O.S member Ahmad Hj Repahi said, "I am waiting
to sail again. Meanwhile, I get to work part time. So, why
not? At least there is money coming which helps cover my
expenses. Once this job is done, I will go to Seacare again
to look for another temporary job."

Seacare Environmental started last year with one part time
cleaner. Today, it boasts a team of 28 full and part time
workers. Its clientele range from supermarkets to offices,
from child care centres to resorts  all having different
needs and requiring different services.

The company provides:

- complete cleaning and maintenance programme for
hotels, condominiums and industrial buildings, cruise
- reconditioning of all types of flooring, carpet care
and preventative maintenance
-	external wall and glass cleaning

To meet these different needs, the company invested in a
whole set of industrial cleaning machines from scrubbing to
wet and dry pick-ups.

Manager Abdul Kader said they strive for excellence. Their
philosophy?  Working in an environment where wastepaper
bins are emptied regularly, where glass doors and windows
are dust-free, where carpets and floors are dry and clean
helps build the morale of workers.

For international seafarers in transit  from crew, to
maids, to workers and vessel owners  Seacare Trans
Enterprise provides pick-up and drop-off services from the
airport to hotel to the pier.

The transit enterprise offers:
*	full range of transfer services for international
seafarers, maids and workers
*	maritime crew handling services
*	inspection of ship's medical chest & replenishment of
me-dication under Sea Pharma.
*	food and van delivery services

Their business has expanded to providing new services like
bringing crew to the clinic when they are unwell, to
booking air tickets and hotel rooms. Their major
breakthrough came in the form of a contract with Wallem
Ship Management, a Hong Kong shipping company that carries
more than 100 vessels.

Seacare Holdings can us SOS and NTUC's good network of
international contacts to expand business opportunities
and create jobs for seafarers. To date, they have launched
other ventures in housekeeping, laundry services and a
medical clinic.

The success of Seacare has helped to strengthen its union
parent. SOS membership increased from 3,407 in October 1995
to 4,400 in August 1996. The number of ships covered by the
union also increased from 212 to 240 during the same
period. And as it grows, it becomes financially

In a competitive free market economy, the co-operative
model adapted to business ventures has created new
opportunities for seafarers in Singapore.