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NTUC: GOING FORWARD WITH TRIPARTISM

a year ago / ntuc / worklifesg

Some thoughts on PM Lee's speech at the National Delegates Conference.

A few Labour Movement posts this month cause it's a very exciting period!

(Really lah!!! If not, read on, I'll make it exciting for you I promise haha.)

Remember I had mentioned about the National Delegates Conference? Jeng jeng jeng... it is happening over the next few days as we speak.

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Last night was the Opening Dinner of the conference at Orchid Country Club where PM Lee touched on a few areas that I found quite interesting.

(You see, we all did Geography back in secondary school and I went on to do Economics in junior college and university but I obviously wasn't a very good student...

So much so that my SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHER left a "Whose class(es) did u skip?" comment in said photo above^ hahaha

Anyway, so to hear PM Lee speak about globalisation, centrally planned economy, free markets in an applicable, relevant Singapore context.... it was quite an eyeopener.)

You can see the speech here but here are some takeaways that I have!

1) GLOBALISATION IS A DOUBLE-­EDGED SWORD

While we have enjoyed the various benefits of globalisation such as worldwide division of labour, workers all around the world are also facing similar challenges and pressure as countries and economies become more interdependent. Global competition is increasing alongside faster and less predictable changes.

2) TECHNOLOGY IS ALSO DISRUPTING INDUSTRIES AND DISPLACING WORKERS

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I fully agree. A large part of my business's production is based in China (which is practically THE world's factory right?) and over the past 5 years, I've witnessed the changes myself as the factory downsizes in terms of workforce but yet heighten productivity with more and more automation.

Not just those working in factories, even professionals like lawyers, accountants and doctors are facing the brunt of this.

3) COMPETITION IS NOT JUST FROM DEVELOPING ECONOMIES, BUT FROM DEVELOPED ECONOMIES TOO

Think again. The average graduate in Japan today has a much lower starting salary than the Singaporean graduate.

4) THE GLOBAL ECONOMY IS FACING A POSSIBLE DOWNTURN

I think we have all been anticipating this for a while now with what's happening in Europe, the soft US economy and China's slowdown. Our Q3 GDP growth is only 1.4% year on year.

5) Then how?

Obviously we're not Thor and we can't resist globalisation or hold back the progress of technology and the best way forward will be to ride the wave and use the power of the self-­ adjusting free market that is efficient and nimble enough to deliver prosperity and growth. This is so that businesses are incentivised to create new products and services and workers continually improve and upskill themselves.

6) BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE STATE HAS NO ROLE

In the case of Singapore, the government has been working hand in hand with the Labour Movement to strengthen our social safety nets for better protection in a less stable economic environment. (Prepare for a rainy day you know?)

In recent years, we have rolled out the Progressive Wage Model to upgrade the skills and wages of more than 100,000 security guards and cleaners, implemented MediShield Life to give every citizen access to lifelong hospitalisation insurance and will be implementing Silver Support soon for better provision in our retirement years.

7) Role of Unions and Tripartism in Singapore

Our unique tripartite partnership of unions, employers and the government has worked well for the country thus far.

All 3 partners work as equals: The Labour Movement has a strong, genuine interest of the workers, Employers have learnt to see unions as partners rather than opponents and the Government seeks to pursue sound national policies which promote growth and worker interests.

It is this mutual trust and partnership that has helped us overcome several crisis such as the most recent Global Financial Crisis in 2008. As employers worked closely with the unions and the government implemented a fiscal package (layman term: government spend money for growth/ reconstructing growth) and unions persuaded workers to go for training, we came through the crisis better than others.

I would know - I graduated in 2008 right in the midst of the crisis but I saw my peers getting decent well-paying jobs come 2009.

I also went on to work in the family business. We had 70 employees at that point in time but with the Jobs Credit scheme implemented in 2009, we didn't have to lay off anyone.

In fact, the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Guy Ryder called on PM Lee at the Istana on Monday afternoon - the first time that an ILO Director-General is visiting Singapore - and said that the successful results of our tripartism model can be observed in terms of our "economic growth, employment, improved living conditions" and "Singapore tripartism passes the essential test of good results".

8) OUR MODEL IS SOMETIMES CRITICISED LOCALLY, BUT IS THE ENVY OF MANY COUNTRIES

Hey, nothing's perfect and it's good that we acknowledge it so we can seek continual improvement. But perhaps, no matter what some perennially negative netizens say, it’s not like whatever models the Western countries have are working any magic either. In fact, our tripartite model has possibly produced a much sweeter outcome than any of theirs, combined. I believe that our cooperative, tripartite model is what kept NTUC relevant all these years but of course they'd need to constantly adapt to serve us well. Even Guy Ryder wants Singapore to be less paiseh about sharing its success. Like what he'd said at the International Forum of Tripartism held here yesterday,

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(Source)

“I think you’re doing extremely well, that is the truth. I haven’t detected in this visit strong disagreements, I don’t think they are there… Singapore has enormous experience with tripartism — you have expertise, you have know-­‐how, that indefinable ingredient of know-­‐
how.

That is one thing maybe Singapore can do better: share it with the rest of us. Join with the ILO, promote what you know in other countries, share your knowledge, encourage tripartism elsewhere… in tripartism you really are a leader and I hope that you will use that expertise, that knowledge, to lead others forward.”

More about what Guy Ryder has said about Singapore’s brand of tripartism here.

Next on the cards? To take care of our ageing population and the changing workforce landscape that has 50% and growing PMETs with different needs and issues as compared to blue collar workers :muscle: