Singapore's industrial peace hard fought and won

Singapore workers are always in a celebratory mood every May Day, and this year is no exception.

Unlike in many countries where demonstrations are the order of the day, our unionised workers and bosses have the opportunity to reflect on the importance of establishing a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship, which is the centrepiece of our economic competitiveness ("Workers around the world stage May Day protests"; Monday).

The chaotic May Day rally in Paris where protesters burned vehicles and threw stones at policemen reminded me of the Hock Lee bus strike and riot here in 1955 when I was a student.

Human lives were lost and public property was damaged. Business came to an abrupt standstill.

Life then was uncertain, with high unemployment, and it did not help that employers regarded unions as their sworn enemy and refused to work with them.

The adversarial climate in those days caused labour unrest, which, in turn, resulted in dire consequences, such as the loss of business, production opportunities and, worse, investor confidence.

It is not by chance that Singapore has enjoyed industrial peace and harmony for decades now.

Our sustainable economic and social progress and a better life are attributable to our model of tripartism: a social partnership of the Government, employers and workers.

Above all, we have a responsible labour movement and enlightened employers, with both sides adopting a consultative problem-solving approach to address the challenges of the business landscape, for the mutual benefit of bosses, workers and society.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore's industrial peace hard fought and won'. Print Edition | Subscribe