Don't turn tripartism into empty slogan: Labour chief

Minister in Prime Minister's Office and the Secretary-General of the National Trade Union Congress, Chan Chun Sing.
Minister in Prime Minister's Office and the Secretary-General of the National Trade Union Congress, Chan Chun Sing.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The importance of tripartism has been repeated many times, but it is a local winning advantage that should not be taken for granted, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said in his first National Day message as labour chief yesterday.

Three days earlier, he had stressed at a media briefing that it was vital that the new generation does not take tripartism as "natural". Previous generations understood the importance of harmonious industrial relations through crises, he added. Yesterday, he recounted a trip to the International Labour Conference in June. "Many (countries) could not build up a strong tripartite culture because of the lack of trust and continuity in their governments and their policies," he said.

"Many of these policies were dictated by short-term political considerations... In some countries, companies would actively avoid working with unions. Ultimately, it is the workers who suffer, as the economy stagnates and the number of quality, available jobs declines."

Singapore, however, adopts a different approach and that has become its competitive advantage, he noted. Thus, it is important to groom a new generation of leaders to continually strengthen tripartite relationships.

Mr Chan pointed to the SkillsFuture initiative as an important opportunity for junior members of the labour movement to work together with the Government and employers. There will also be more programmes to systemically allow potential tripartite leaders to meet and talk through issues.

BUILDING STRONG RELATIONSHIPS

Trust and continuity will not come within one day or a year... Without that deep understanding and culture of collaboration, tripartism is an empty slogan.

MR CHAN CHUN SING, in his first National Day message as labour chief yesterday

"To make a boring statement (on tripartism) into a competitive advantage is not easy, which is why... programmes will be put in place to make sure that the new generation of union leaders understand the other part of the tripartite equation," he said. "Similarly, there will be programmes to help the other parts to understand the union."

This is done to make sure that the next generation "is familiar with three parts of the system".

"Trust and continuity will not come within one day or a year," he added. "Without that deep understanding and culture of collaboration... tripartism is an empty slogan.

"When I wake up and I don't see (reports about local) strikes or industrial disputes flaring up, it means yesterday was a good day for me."

About 5,000 people from the tripartite community - including Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower; Singapore National Employers Federation president Robert Yap and NTUC president Diana Chia - attended the labour movement's National Day celebration at The Promontory @ Marina Bay yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2015, with the headline 'Don't turn tripartism into empty slogan: Labour chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe