NTUC and civil service to start staff exchanges next month

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing.
Labour chief Chan Chun Sing. PHOTO: ST FILE

In a bid to boost the ties between the Government and unions, the labour movement and civil service will start staff exchanges from next month.

Two mid-level civil servants who are assistant directors will join the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) for two years, while the NTUC is sending a staff member to the Manpower Ministry (MOM).

Besides these postings, the NTUC unions will have 10 to 20 civil servants attached to them part-time. These officials will attend union meetings and work with union leaders for one year, on top of their regular jobs at various ministries.

The latest move will allow promising civil servants and union leaders to work together to further strengthen the three-way partnership between the Government, unions and businesses, said labour chief Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

"Strong tripartite partnership needs to be carefully nurtured over time through real actions," he said.

While there were ad hoc staff exchanges between the MOM and NTUC in the past, the practice was discontinued in recent years.

Mr Chan, who is NTUC secretary-general, said he was inspired to restart the staff postings because of the benefits of such exchanges.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong, the last NTUC employee posted to MOM for one year from 2002 to 2003, said her stint helped her understand how non-unionised firms operate when she had to mediate disputes involving them.

"They were weaker in human resource practices," she said.

Mr Nur Azarudin Putra Mohamed Jufri, assistant executive secretary of the Chemical Industries' Employees Union, is the NTUC staff member who is going to MOM from next month.

He said he hopes to "better understand how the MOM rationalises its manpower policies and resolves disputes for all groups of workers".

"All of us will have different positions on issues, but the key to finding a sustainable and win-win solution is by looking past these different positions and finding common interests, which is the welfare of workers and Singaporeans," said the 34-year-old who has worked in NTUC for eight years.

When asked about the details of its official who is heading to NTUC, the MOM said: "Details are being finalised."

While the scheme involves civil servants and union leaders for now, the Singapore National Employers' Federation is keen to join the exchanges in the next few months.

Said its president, Mr Robert Yap: "Tripartite relationship depends on trust. If we do not have trust in the relationship, it is very difficult to work together."

Toh Yong Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2015, with the headline 'NTUC and civil service to start staff exchanges next month'. Subscribe