The Straits Times
Published on Nov 28, 2012

Tweak tripartite movement to be more representative of workers


IT IS disturbing to know that foreign workers on work permits here took the law into their own hands ("102 SMRT bus drivers protest against pay"; yesterday).

One also wonders whether they have a proper channel to seek redress when they feel discriminated at the workplace.

It will be timely also for the authorities to take a look at the tripartite movement which our unions belong to and perhaps tweak it so that they are more representative of the workers.

My fear is that the tripartite movement, which served us so well in the past, may not be as relevant as today's workforce is made up of a significant number of foreigners, which the unions are also trying to represent.

Our local workforce will fully cooperate with the employers and the Government to fulfil the national goal of achieving a united workforce.

However, foreigners here on work permits may not think the same way and take matters into their own hands if their needs are not properly looked into.

It is time to re-examine the dependence on foreigners for jobs that our local workers could do. More than a third of the current workforce here is foreign, and this is not acceptable.

If the authorities do not take the matter in hand, it may encourage foreign workers in other industries to do the same when they feel that their work conditions are not up to par.

The law should intervene now and curb such illegal actions so that our peaceful work environment here is protected.

It is also timely to look at strengthening the arbitration rights of our unions so workers feel that their needs are looked into effectively.

If not, we may continue to see pockets of foreign workers engaged in such acts.

At worst, such frequent work-stop occurrences will deter foreign investors from sinking their money into our economy.

Gilbert Goh


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