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Welcome Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Manpower and Chairman, Tripartite Panel on Community Engagement at Workplaces at CEP Businesses and Unions Cluster Networking Night, 23 February 2011, 7.00pm, The Singapore Flyer, Megu Event Hall

Mr Stephen Lee, President, Singapore National Employers Federation

Mr Tony Chew, Chairman, Singapore Business Federation

Mdm Halimah Yacob, Deputy Secretary-General, NTUC

Members of the Tripartite Panel on Community Engagement at Workplaces

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,


  1. I would like to welcome all of you to the Community Engagement Programme (CEP) Businesses and Unions Cluster Networking Night1. From here, we can enjoy one of Singapore's best night views of the iconic city skyline. We have the Marina Bay Sands, the world's first ArtScience Museum and in the near future, Gardens by the Bay.
  2. The transformation and the vibrancy of the bay area reflects Singapore's progress over the years. Our economy grew a record 14.5% last year. Preliminary unemployment rate averaged 2.2% in 2010, down significantly from 3.0% in 2009. We have pulled ourselves out of recession faster than expected and delivered an exceptional economic performance. This has allowed us to have a good budget for the year benefiting everyone and preparing for the future.
  3. What is the secret to Singapore's success? One key contributing factor is our strong tripartite partnership, where we work together as one - committed to building harmonious working relations amongst our multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious workforce, committed to bringing employers, workers and the Government together for the common good of the workforce and economy. It is crucial that we continue to strengthen this partnership in our efforts to preserve and enhance social harmony in Singapore.
  4. Today's networking event provides a good opportunity for our CEP community leaders and partners to build upon the strong partnership and mutual trust that we have forged over the years. These bonds are important as they will help ensure that workplaces in Singapore are resilient against any crisis.
  5. This is where the CEP Businesses and Unions Cluster plays an important role. In times of crises, the behaviours and responses of employers, supervisors, union leaders and workers can make a great difference to the outcome. If the crises are well-managed, they could strengthen the resilience and unity of our society and help us emerge stronger as a society and as a nation. The alternative would be a workplace where crises are poorly managed, leading to social tension and an unproductive workforce, affecting peace and stability in Singapore.

    Progress of CEP in the Businesses and Unions Cluster
  6. This year marks the 5th year since CEP was launched. I am encouraged by the good progress that has been achieved. As you have seen in the opening video, our tripartite partners have organised numerous activities to build mutual trust, promote stronger ties and forge racial and religious harmony among their members and at workplaces. Some notable initiatives and activities include NTUC’s Learning Journey to the ISD Heritage Centre for key union leaders, as well as CEP industry briefings and seminars conducted by SNEF, SBF and ASME. The ethnic chambers of commerce have also organised cultural festivities to deepen intercultural understanding among members. Through these efforts, we have reached out to more than 300,000 employers and employees over the years. More than 250,000 foreign workers have also been briefed on Singapore's social norms and the importance of maintaining workplace harmony. Annual simulation exercises conducted by the cluster have also helped to ensure that community leaders like yourselves are familiar with your roles in safeguarding racial and religious harmony at the workplace.
  7. The tripartite partners have also been encouraging companies to implement CEP in their organisations. Han's (F&B) Pte Ltd is one good example. It has both local and foreign staff, with 40% of its local employees being mature workers and 10% hired under the flexi-work scheme. Given the diversity of its workforce, Han's has taken proactive steps to ensure that its work environment is inclusive and harmonious. By having regular communication sessions, employees have the opportunity to surface any concerns or issues they may have. As part of its business continuity plans, the company actively keeps a lookout for, and proactively manages any issue or incident that may potentially affect the harmonious working relationships among their staff. Employees' concerns are clarified quickly, where necessary. Such plans have helped the company boost morale and productivity of its employees, thereby minimising disruptions to its business operations.
  8. We would like to see more companies with such plans and practices. To help more employers implement CEP at their workplace, we can do more to equip CEOs, HR practitioners, line managers and supervisors, union leaders and employees with the relevant skills to promote harmonious workplace relations.
  9. In this regard, I am happy to announce that the tripartite partners will be putting in place initiatives to strengthen CEP capabilities and deepen CEP implementation in the Cluster.

    Strengthening CEP Capabilities and Deepening Implementation

    New CEP Implementation Guide for Employers
  10. Firstly, a new CEP Implementation Guide for Employers has been developed to help organisations kick-start CEP at workplaces. This guide will help organisations identify risks that could affect their workforce and cause business disruptions. Anticipating these risks upstream can help organisations better deal with events and situations that may adversely affect harmonious working relations. It contains suggestions on how organisations can encourage and foster social harmony at the workplace, as well as recommends ways to put in place or strengthen their preparedness plans. There are also useful resources and references such as checklists and templates that can help employers develop more comprehensive plans for their organisations. I would like to encourage all employers to make full use of this practical guide. This guide will be made available online at the MOM and Singapore United websites2.

    Strengthening CEP Capabilities in the Cluster
  11. We will also make available CEP training programmes to equip our stakeholders with the relevant skills to implement CEP at workplaces effectively. For the business community, a basic CEP course, administered by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and supported by tripartite partners, will be developed in the second half of this year to help senior management staff, line managers/supervisors, HR practitioners and other employees acquire skills and knowledge that would enable them to implement policies and programmes that enhance the harmonious working relations and resilience of their workplaces.
  12. As for the labour movement and trade union leaders currently attending the Basic Certification in Industrial Relations (BCIR) course3 conducted by the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute (OTCi), they will learn, as part of the curriculum, more about their role in promoting harmonious working relations and managing CEP-related issues at the workplace. This course is attended by more than 400 newly-elected and aspiring union leaders each year.

    Forming "CEP Industry Networks"
  13. The tripartite partners will also identify and form "CEP Industry Networks" for selected industries such as the hotel, security, financial and transport sectors. Through this approach, we would be able to better understand the needs of these industries, help companies in these industries implement CEP more effectively at their workplaces, and share their CEP implementation experiences with others in the same industry. The tripartite partners will work out the details of this initiative soon.

  14. In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the tripartite partners and the community leaders for your strong support and commitment to the CEP over the past 5 years. I am confident that with your continuous support, we will be able to ensure that our workplaces are crisis-ready and resilient for the future. I would also like to wish everyone an enjoyable evening and a good year ahead. Thank you.

1 The tripartite partners for the cluster include the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME), the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) and the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI).

2 To download the Guide, visit MOM's website or Singapore United's website.

3 The BCIR is a mandatory course for newly elected and aspiring union leaders. It provides participants with a basic knowledge of trade unionism, industrial relations policies and practices in Singapore. At the course, participants also acquire basic skills for effective leadership at workplaces, exchange ideas and experiences, and develop a learning network among the union leaders.The enhanced BCIR course with CEP content commenced on 14 February 2011.

About CEP Businesses and Unions Cluster Netwoking Night