TL;DR – Meeting Singapore’s new challenges and changing needs.
The NTUC Ordinary Delegates’ Conference (ODC) 2017 was held on Wednesday, 15 November 2017, where NTUC affiliated unions voted decisively to update NTUC’s constitution to expand its network to serve all working people in Singapore.
NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing highlighted the need for the Labour Movement to remain relevant to and representative of the needs of our working people as technological disruptions result in the creation of new business models, new employment arrangements, new jobs as well as new skills needed to perform these roles, at an increasingly fast pace.
The Labour Chief said,
“We voted to amend the constitutions to ensure that the Labour Movement stays strong, relevant and representative, that we’re not here just to take care of the rank-and-file workers today, in fact, we don’t like the divide, the artificial divide between rank-and-file and non-rank-and-file. They’re just working people in Singapore and this Labour Movement of ours will be the one and only labour movement for Singapore, serving all working people in Singapore, from all walks of life.
Today, we will adopt a set of papers that will guide us into the future, and includes the LM Compass which sets out the directions of what the Labour Movement will do, going forward. That while our goals do not change, our approaches will constantly evolve with the times to ensure that we’re relevant.
Our Social Enterprises will, similarly, evolve our products and services to stay relevant.
The unions will not just take care of the rank-and-file, we must take care of the PMETs in the same company as well.”
LM Conversations 2017
After the ODC, union leaders, representatives from the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), management representatives from unionised companies, LM partners from U Associate, U SME and U FSE; and representatives from NTUC Social Enterprises and related organisations dialogued with Mr Lim Swee Say, Mr Gan Kim Yong, Mr Ng Chee Meng, Mr Ong Ye Kung, and Mrs Josephine Teo.
During LM Conversations, a dialogue series where union leaders meet ministers from different ministries to discuss about work- and worker-related issues, they touched touched on several key topics involving the future of Singapore’s workforce were discussed. These include,
- The Future of Tripartism
- NTUC Social Enterprises (SEs)
- Manpower Politics & Policies
Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing spoke about the importance of the approaches NTUC has set itself out to achieve, namely, to build a cohesive, relevant and representative Labour Movement that represents all sectors and working people in Singapore. The Singapore workforce will have to be future-ready and be equipped and enabled to handle both today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. This will empower Singaporeans to lead better and more meaningful lives with access to quality and affordable goods and services.
To do so, the Labour Movement will leverage on its longstanding symbiotic relationship with the ruling People’s Action Party for pro-working people politics and policies to establish a progressive and conducive work environment through tripartism.
NTUC’s symbiotic relationship with PAP
The year 1969 was a turning point in the history of the Labour Movement (LM), where at the Modernisation Seminar, a new social compact was struck with the government the day for the benefit of the workers and the nation’s growth. The way forward was to be non-confrontational, and a new culture of collaborative and constructive tripartism was born.
The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a co-founder of the People’s Action Party (PAP) and he forged a strong symbiotic relationship between the PAP and the NTUC. As the first Prime Minister of Singapore, he championed a strong spirit of tripartism, bringing labour, management and government together.
With the Government’s support, the LM was able to organise workers, help them acquire new skills to remain competitive, while at the same time, co-create a conducive environment to attract investments. On its part, the Government’s focus on pro-worker policies grew stronger.
Forty-eight years on, Singapore’s model of tripartism continues to grow stronger to meet new challenges and changing needs. The tripartite partners have reaffirmed the need to continuously strengthen the tripartite relationship amidst the changes, and successive generations of younger leaders in the LM, Government and businesses must continue to build on this foundation.
Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say was the immediate past Secretary-General of NTUC and it’s hardly surprising that he spoke about a pro-people government and a pro-worker labour movement.
“This strong symbiotic relationship between the ruling party and the NTUC enables us to keep working together, to keep strengthening. But what is important is for us to recognise that as a Labour Movement, do we want to support a government that is pro-people? As a government, we must support a labour movement that is pro-worker. As long as we have a pro-people government and a pro-worker Labour Movement working together under a strong symbiotic relationship, I believe that the future of tripartism will continue to be bright.”
Before he was appointed Minister for Health in 2011, Mr Gan Kim Yong was Minister for Manpower, so he’s also not stranger to the unionists. He also showed his support for tripartism and for all three tripartite partners – the government, the employers and the workers – to continue to strengthen the bond.
“The strength of our tripartism took many years for us to build and there is an important part of it, that is the bond and the trust we have in one another. Especially during crisis, we always bear in mind the importance of tripartism, and how can we be fair and equitable to our workers and at the same time, making sure that our enterprises survive and thrive so that our workers will continue to have good jobs.”