At the launch of the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) last Friday, Minister for Manpower Lim See Say recalled how Singapore “did not have anything” during its early days of industrialisation in the 60s.
Under the leadership of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the country resorted to a strategy of “borrowing.”
“We did not have technology, market, capital, nor jobs and we borrowed from the world - US, Europe, Japan and we talked to the MNCs [Multi-National Corporations]. Because of this borrowed strategy, we get to where we are today.”
But the Minister said Singapore also had to be pro-worker so that Singaporeans would also benefit from the development and progress. The answer lied in Tripartism – cooperation between businesses, workers, and the government.
He described Tripartism as a “very simple” concept that’s also “very difficult” to implement. “This is the reason why until today, Tripartism is still a secret weapon. Our challenge is to continue to build on it.”
Over five decades after independence, he said Singapore still coutns own Tripartism as a policy for the future. “As we move towards the future economy, we need to create more and better jobs. We set up the sectoral tripartite committee, sector by sector, for 23 sectors, with the Labour Movement, the industry, and government agencies. We turn to Tripartism to help us to create better jobs, in every sector of our economy.”
Among other things, Tripartism has influenced the “Adapt and Grow” inotoatove, raised re-employment age, and flexible work arrangements for women who return to work. It has also helped enhance the well-being of low-wage workers, through sectoral tripartite committees for landscaping, security and cleaning sectors.
Lim spoke during the launch of the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM), which provides advisory and mediation services for salary-related disputes. TADM also operates a “Short Term Relief Fund” for low wage workers. This aims to provide quick relief to such earners who are owed salary by employers in financial difficulties or facing business failure.
He also announced the formation of Tripartite Alliance Limited (TAL). The company is jointly owned by MOM, NTUC and Singapore National Employers Federation
“The three parties will collate our resources, pool our expertise and work together as one tripartite alliance to serve the interests of our workers to the best of our ability, not just today, but into the future.”
“We want to ensure that the unfair practices in Singapore are eliminated,” Lim said. Through tripartite efforts, Singapore launched the Human Capital Partnership (HCP) about two months ago.
“Today, the number of companies under the Watchlist is longer than the list of Human Capital Partners - 250 under the watchlist and 74 under the HCP today. The ratio is 3:1. Through tripartite efforts, we believe we can reverse this such that the HCP list will be much longer than the watchlist.”
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In the span of a single generation Singapore has rapidly grown from a newly independent city-state to one of the world’s highly developed economies – and striking a balance between pro-business and pro-worker policies has helped the country achieved that feat.