TL;DR – PM Lee highlighted the significance of Singapore’s unique tripartite model during NTUC’s National Delegates Conference 2023.
In Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s address at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) National Delegates’ Conference (NDC) 2023 on Wednesday (Nov 22), Mr Lee delved into Singapore’s unique tripartite model, highlighting its success rooted in the government’s commitment to both economic progress and workers’ well-being.
Reflecting on the unique tripartite model in Singapore that fosters collaboration between unions, employers, and the government – known as tripartism – a fundamental question arises: why does this matter for us, the workers of Singapore?
The significance of tripartism becomes evident in the stability it brings to industrial relations and the business-friendly environment that attracts increased investment. PM Lee traced this success back to the pivotal 1969 modernisation seminar by NTUC, emphasising its role in prioritising the long-term welfare of workers and maintaining industrial peace. This advantage has endured, contributing significantly to Singapore’s economic growth and restructuring.
Contrastingly, other nations grappling with disruptions and labour disputes, such as the frequently paralysed British port operations, highlight the positive outcomes of Singapore’s tripartite collaboration. This collaborative approach not only fosters industrial peace but also positions Singapore as a global hub for world-class operations, exemplified by the PSA port authority. This sparks new opportunities, making Singapore an attractive destination for companies to invest more.
For us, the workers of Singapore, tripartism signifies a collective commitment to the common good, creating an environment where life can genuinely improve for all. As we navigate the complexities of a changing global landscape, the tripartite model isn’t just an economic strategy—it’s a commitment to our collective well-being and this gains particular significance against the backdrop of the NDC, a quadrennial event organised by NTUC.
What is the NDC all about?
The NDC which happens every four years, is a crucial event for workers in Singapore, organized by the NTUC. During the NDC, delegates from NTUC’s affiliated unions and associations come together to discuss and create plans to help workers at work, live and play; as well as to contribute towards Singapore’s economic and social progress.
Think of the NDC like a massive “kopi session” where delegates of the Labour Movement, recap the achievements of the last four years, and formulate the direction that it would take in the next four years to help Singapore stay competitive and to help workers remain employable for life; to enhance the social status and well-being of workers; and to build a strong, responsible and caring labour movement.
NTUC Central Committee 2023-2027
One important agenda during the NDC is the election of the Central Committee for the next four-year term. This committee is the highest decision-making body that plays a big role in guiding the direction of the Labour Movement to further NTUC’s objectives.
So, it’s not just a casual “kopi session”, but a significant event that steers the course of the labour movement’s future – ensuring Singapore stays competitive, workers stay employable, and improve the well-being of workers.
This year’s NDC saw the election of a new leadership team for the four-year term of 2023 to 2027, the Central Committee (CC) is the highest decision-making body in the Labour Movement (LM).
What has NTUC achieved in the last 4 years?
During the NTUC National Delegates’ Conference in 2019, a goal of reaching 1.5 million members by 2025 (with a fallback to 2030) was set. To achieve this target, the delegates pledged to innovate in three crucial areas: union model, membership model, and training model, with a strong emphasis on digitalization. The NTUC’s membership is expected to reach 1.27 million by the end of 2023, which marks a remarkable 30 per cent growth since NDC 2019.
“It is both a show of strength to what we can achieve together as a Labour Movement and a testament to how our innovations have upped our Labour Movement’s relevance in a very much changed world,” said Ng Chee Meng.
NTUC also aimed to maintain its role as a representative voice for workers and a credible partner of the Government by ensuring relevance and representation of workers’ needs.
Over the past four years, NTUC has been a driving force in championing the rights and well-being of workers across various sectors in Singapore:
- Through the expansion of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), wages have been raised for 135,000 lower-wage workers in Retail, Food Services, and Waste Management, providing clear career pathways for their advancement.
- Major strides made in representation and rights for the vulnerable Platform Workers comprising of “Employers” CPF contributions, workplace injury benefits, and soon, formal representation through NTUC
- For mature workers, NTUC and the tripartite partners have raised retirement and re-employment ages and are restoring CPF contribution rates.
- The support for local PMEs includes the implementation of the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS), upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation, and certification of 12,000 HR practitioners to ensure fair employment practices.
- The focus on youth transitioning from school to the workplace is evident through initiatives like the Career Starter Lab pilot and the Youth Starter Membership.
- In the caregivers’ space, NTUC has advocated for flexible work arrangements and introduced “C U Back at Work,” a first-of-a-kind programme offering 500 redesigned roles with flexible arrangements that cater to women with caregiving needs. The push for paid caregivers leave through Collective Agreements further showcases NTUC’s commitment to supporting workers’ caregiving needs.
- The Company Training Committees (CTCs) have been a needle-moving innovation that made real positive impact. Amid the challenges posed by COVID, 1,700 CTCs were established and close to 125,000 workers have been trained or upskilled.
- The CTC grant has facilitated 120 business transformation projects, resulting in increased productivity and upskilling opportunities. Workers, including PMEs, have benefited from an average committed wage increase of 5.2%, showcasing the tangible impact of NTUC’s efforts.
NTUC’s new leadership team charting the way forward
Having innovated Business, Membership and Training Models to create a positive impact to the lives and livelihoods of workers in the last four years, as the new leadership team takes the reins for the next term, it is committed to:
- Expand on NTUC’s successful efforts; scale up efforts to support all-collar unions, especially for PMEs
- Entrench an innovation culture within NTUC to ensure the Labour Movement’s relevance in helping all collars of workers and
- Strengthen the Labour Movement’s leadership development
So, what’s in it for workers of Singapore?
In essence, the NDC is like the heartbeat of Singapore’s workforce, a crucial gathering by the NTUC every four years. Much like an essential “kopi session,” it’s a time for reflection and where strategies are brewed for the betterment of workers.
For the everyday Singaporean worker, here’s the key takeaway: NTUC is committed to making work better for you. Whether it’s raising wages, championing your rights, or ensuring you stay relevant in a changing job market, NTUC has your back. As a new leadership team takes the reins, the focus remains on amplifying these efforts, embracing innovation, and helping you develop your skills. So, as Singapore progresses, NTUC evolves with it, ensuring that you not only survive but thrive in the ever-shifting world of work.