SINGAPORE - People's Action Party MPs who serve as advisers to various unions should go beyond advising and help out on the ground and engage workers directly, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Nov 8).
The PAP should also recruit more union leaders to join it, and have more party activists within the unions so that ties are kept warm and close at the working level, said PM Lee, who is the party's secretary-general.
In making these points, he stressed how it is especially vital to strengthen the partnership between the PAP and the National Trades Union Congress in a time of crisis.
Ties between the ruling party and labour movement remain very strong at the leadership level, he said, but the engagement is "not as deep" on the ground between PAP branches and individual unions as well as union branches.
Urging PAP MPs to engage workers, he said: "That way when worker issues arise, PAP MPs and leaders will have a solid feel and understand the ins and outs of issues and why workers are worried, what their concerns are. And PAP MPs can speak up on behalf of workers in Parliament, and show them that they have a voice in the PAP."
PM Lee was speaking at the biennial PAP conference, where cadre members voted to elect the party's its top decision making body.
This year, the Prime Minister, other party leaders and MPs gathered at the NTUC Centre, along with invited unionists.
"Fighting for workers is deeply embedded in the PAP's DNA," said PM Lee, as he highlighted the symbiotic relationship between the party and unions.
This is why the PAP sends representatives to attend the NTUC delegates' conferences, and why unionists from the NTUC are joining party cadres at the PAP conference on Sunday, he added.
"It is not just for old times' sake, but an expression of our abiding close ties," said PM Lee, who said that the enduring and productive relationship between both sides has formed the foundation of Singapore's harmonious tripartite relations, and sustained the country's economic success.
In the current Covid-19 crisis, the unions need the Government on their side looking after workers' interests, supporting their families, protecting jobs and livelihoods, he said.
"And this is when the PAP government needs the strong support from the labour movement, to keep a finger on the pulse, to get workers to understand and support the measures and the policies that will help us get out of this black time," he added.
He cited a food voucher scheme for the needy by FairPrice as an example of the partnership between the NTUC and PAP branches.
The scheme is overseen by the NTUC team, including secretary-general Ng Chee Meng and NTUC Enterprise group chief executive Seah Kian Peng, who are both party members. The total amount of food vouchers that will be disbursed to needy families has gone up from $1.2 million last year to $3 million this year.
With much more economic disruption and turbulence in the job market expected in the wake of Covid-19, along with new models of work expected, the close partnership between the PAP and the NTUC will be a "precious asset" as Singapore navigates through an uncertain future, said PM Lee.
"Workers will need a strong labour movement more than ever, while the Government will rely on the unions to fulfil their responsibilities, to protect workers and take Singapore forward.