Josephine Teo flags danger of disruption on tripartism

Manpower Minister Mrs Josephine Teo speaking at the Ministry of Manpower’s Workplan Seminar 2018.
Manpower Minister Mrs Josephine Teo speaking at the Ministry of Manpower’s Workplan Seminar 2018. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Worker-employer-Govt trust must be protected amid upheavals: MOM minister

Technological disruption, which is upending global businesses and traditional work arrangements, could also threaten the trust between workers, employers and the Government, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday.

She gave the warning in her first major speech since she took on her new role, stressing that Singapore's unique tripartism which engendered the trust must be protected amid the upheavals. Otherwise, the country risks facing political disruption, as seen in other countries, she said, citing Brexit.

Mrs Teo was speaking at the opening of her ministry's annual seminar to chart the challenges it faces and ways to tackle them.

When trust is shattered, the damage will be hard to repair, she said.

The need to listen to concerns on the ground cannot be over-emphasised, she said, whether it is about stagnating wages, adequate savings for retirement or jobs lost owing to disruption. But in doing so, there is a need to strike a balance between being pro-worker and pro-business, she added. Mrs Teo was speaking to about 1,600 staff of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and its statutory boards, plus officials from the labour movement and Singapore National Employers Federation, at the Singapore Expo.

"We must, therefore, be responsive while maintaining a careful balance. It would be a mistake to not keep Singapore open to specialist skills and talents from around the world. (And) it would be a bigger mistake to not strengthen support for Singaporeans," she said.

Moves that MOM is taking to strengthen support for local workers include enhancing the Inclusive Growth Programme, which offers incentives to businesses to share productivity gains with lower-wage workers.

Moves that MOM is taking to strengthen support for local workers include enhancing the Inclusive Growth Programme, which offers incentives to businesses to share productivity gains with lower-wage workers, she said.

The ministry and NTUC will also look into other ways to ensure low-wage workers are better supported, such as through career progression and skills development, she added.

An initiative to be rolled out is SkillsFuture for Enterprises to help companies set up better training and human resource systems, structures and processes. It will help them diagnose their current HR capabilities and subsequently take action to close any gaps.

MOM will do it with Workforce Singapore, starting with a one-year pilot involving 1,000 companies across industries. A full roll-out to include 10,000 companies will be done over five years.

Mrs Teo also set out the roles of the MOM's team, following last month's Cabinet reshuffle.

She moved up to take charge of MOM, while backbencher Zaqy Mohamad was promoted to Minister of State and Ms Low Yen Ling was named Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower.

Mr Zaqy will focus on workplace safety and health, and progressive workplace practices, including for people with disabilities.

Ms Low will champion women's inclusion in the workforce, and help young graduates develop their careers and fulfil their potential.

"We are as excited as we are committed," Mr Teo said of her "almost-new'' team.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2018, with the headline 'Josephine Teo flags danger of disruption on tripartism'. Print Edition | Subscribe