Younger political, union leaders must forge mutual trust: PM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the May Day Rally at D'Marquee in Downtown East yesterday. Addressing the audience of unionists, PAP ministers and MPs as well as employers, he noted that tripartism "has seen us through every crisis since i
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the May Day Rally at D'Marquee in Downtown East yesterday. Addressing the audience of unionists, PAP ministers and MPs as well as employers, he noted that tripartism "has seen us through every crisis since independence".ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the May Day Rally at D'Marquee in Downtown East yesterday. Addressing the audience of unionists, PAP ministers and MPs as well as employers, he noted that tripartism "has seen us through every crisis since i
NTUC DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL KOH POH KOON

He also calls on them to renew their commitment to tripartism - the 'secret ingredient' to success

As the Government is undergoing a leadership transition, so too is the labour movement, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

And younger leaders on both sides must renew mutual trust and their commitment to tripartism, the "secret ingredient" to Singapore's survival and success, he added.

Tripartism - the collaboration between the Government, unions and employers - "has seen us through every crisis since independence", said Mr Lee in his May Day Rally speech yesterday.

"We built this together," he told the audience of unionists, People's Action Party (PAP) ministers and MPs, and employers.

Mr Lee, who took the stage after National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Chan Chun Sing, said he was very happy to see him introduce NTUC's two new deputy secretaries-general, Mr Ng Chee Meng and Dr Koh Poh Koon, to the crowd and let them speak of their hopes and plans for the labour movement.

Mr Ng is expected to take over Mr Chan's role as secretary-general in the coming months, as Mr Chan will be leaving NTUC to focus on his new role as Trade and Industry Minister.

"I think it is the right way for the labour movement to go. It is the right way for Singapore to go. One of these days, I will do the same like Brother Chun Sing," quipped Mr Lee, alluding to his own plans to step down as prime minister by the time he reaches 70 in 2022.

DREAMING BIG

For the last 2 1/2 years, I can tell you that I eat, sleep and dream about ITMs. And so far we have launched 23 ITMs. I think my dreams will get more exciting and colourful - I've got 23 different dreams to dream of now.

NTUC DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL KOH POH KOON, also Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, on his dual role of overseeing the Industry Transformation Maps, or ITMs, and now also helping workers reskill according to the industries' needs.

There are now 18 fourth-generation PAP leaders involved in the labour movement in various roles such as union advisers. Their participation gathered pace following Mr Lee's call last November for the "symbiotic relationship" between the ruling party and the labour movement to be strengthened. This came after some younger union leaders raised questions about whether the relationship, forged from 1954 when the PAP was founded, is necessary.

4G PAP leaders and young unionists said yesterday they will look for ways to strengthen the 64-year-old partnership, especially in helping workers upgrade to stay relevant.

Newly appointed Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said a priority is to strengthen the Government's connection with the labour movement.

"As a political party, PAP counts on NTUC to be the bridge to working Singaporeans, to understand deeply their concerns and identify the means by which their lives can improve," she told The Straits Times.

"The NTUC continues to need the PAP in Government to bring about economic transformation and improve the livelihoods of our people and their families."

At the same time, both will need to support businesses to bring people along this journey, she added.

Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Communications and Information, said strengthening the tripartite relationship has to involve two key things - talking and doing. "It's about having dialogues - what are their concerns and fears, what are our viewpoints with respect to our policy and directions. But it comes down to doing things together."

Dr Janil, an adviser to the U Associate Leaders' Circle, a group of leaders from professional associations, said both sides are, for example, co-organising training events for education and career counsellors to guide students on freelance work.

Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union assistant general treasurer Noor Irdawaty Jammarudin, 35, said renewing trust between the Government and labour movement boils down to "more workgroups, more partnerships, doing more things together, to build on what our predecessors have done, especially to help workers adapt to disruptive technology".

Air-Transport Executive Staff Union president Daniel Loh, 39, said his role as a young union leader is to be an effective liaison to support the aspirations and address concerns of the current generation of workers.

"For this generation, their concerns are about putting food on the table, while pursuing work-life balance. So we need to ensure that there continue to be good jobs - and good jobs don't necessarily mean jobs with good pay," he said.

"A good job is one where I am able to fulfil a challenging role effectively and efficiently, do something I like, and where I can practise lifelong learning."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2018, with the headline 'Younger political, union leaders must forge mutual trust: PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe