Singapore's model of trade unionism and tripartism has faced criticism in the West but history has shown that it is more effective than militancy and conflict in securing workers’ welfare and livelihoods, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Apr. 30) in his 2021 May Day Message.
PM Lee pointed out that trade union membership has steadily declined in most western societies and labour movements in the West are now a "pale shadow of what they were in the 1960s".
"By contrast, union membership has risen consistently in Singapore, by dint of deliberate policy and unremitting effort."
Labour movement carried workers through Covid-19 pandemic
The prime minister went on to illustrate how NTUC protected workers in Singapore during the Covid-19 pandemic, by carrying out fair and responsible retrenchments, providing financial support through the NTUC Care Fund (Covid-19), and helping workers find new jobs through the NTUC Job Security Council.
"Through the crisis, the Labour Movement maintained its collaborative stance. It persuaded workers to sacrifice today for the promise of a better tomorrow. Without this spirit of fighting Covid-19 together and never-say-die, we would not have come through our worst downturn since independence so lightly."
PM Lee also pointed out some bright spots in Singapore's economic outlook.
Singapore's unemployment rate is gradually coming down and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) earlier forecasted a four to six per cent GDP growth. Barring any setback to the global economy, Singapore's growth is expected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels this year.
NTUC still relevant in training workers for post-pandemic economy
As Singapore gears towards a post-pandemic economy, NTUC is "actively involved" in transforming the country's workforce by customising different policies and solutions for different groups of workers, said PM Lee.
For instance, NTUC has formed over 600 Company Training Committees (CTCs). These committees work with firms to identify capability gaps, co-create new jobs, and train workers for them.
"The CTCs show how NTUC is making itself relevant, and finding new solutions to secure better jobs for workers," he said.
"The guiding principle of tripartism has always been to stay united and progress together. This May Day, let us recommit ourselves to strengthening this partnership, and building a brighter future for Singapore for the next 60 years and beyond."