Closing Remarks at Tripartite Collective LKY100 Dialogue
Ms Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State for Manpower and Education, National Gallery Singapore
Ms Mary Liew, President NTUC
Mr Ng Chee Meng, Secretary General, NTUC
Mr John Ng, Vice-President, SNEF
Mr Stephen Lee, Chairman, TAL
Special guests Mr Lim Boon Heng and Mr Lim Swee Say,
Tripartite brothers and sisters
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
1. There were a lot of nuggets from the panel discussion earlier as well as Mr Lim Boon Heng's sharing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s thoughts, vision and impact on tripartism in Singapore. Let me just share the things that really touched my heart.
Mr Lee’s legacy on tripartism in Singapore
2. First of all, the quote that I remember the most from Mr Lee Kuan Yew, that was shared earlier on, was what he said in 2012, “our special situation that we have cooperation between unions, employers and Government did not come about by accident. We strived very hard and instead of infighting to try and get each party to understand the obligations and responsibilities to each other. And because we succeeded in that, we created an environment that invited foreign investments, confidence in the future and today’s Singapore.” Although that was said more than 10 years ago, I think it is still very relevant today. Today we’re talking about social compact and how we need to respect one another, understand our responsibilities to one another so that Singapore can continue to succeed and bring better lives for workers, for businesses and for Singaporeans.
3. We are all beneficiaries of tripartism. I joined MOM in 2020, in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic. I saw firsthand how because we had built trust and had very strong tripartism, things moved very fast. Changes in policies, revisions to tripartite advisories, guidance to employers and employees, guidance on responsible retrenchment, how to be sensible as businesses went about cost-saving measures, taking care of one another and making sure that while jobs were lost, workers could still be saved in one way or another. I also saw how Sec-Gen in cabinet meetings represented the unions and workers welfare in pushing for SGUnited jobs and skills, being fair to employers while looking out for workers and job seekers’ needs at the same time. It is not easy at all and I would say we have to thank Mr Lee for laying the foundation in tripartism and impacting so many of our past generations of leaders.
4. Let’s not take tripartism for granted. If you look around us at the rest of the world, you will know that industrial peace is not a given. It’s not a natural state at all; there are politics, dynamics and different interests being championed by different groups. Singapore is indeed very unique and for us to continue to stay unique, the trust has to be developed further and it is every generation’s responsibility to build it up. There is a need to educate our young about tripartism and there is a need to develop critical thinking skills and inculcate positive values in our young people.
5. At the workplace, the employer must first take care of the employees, who will then take care of the business. Mr Lee knew this from day one. As the video showed, he first fought for workers’ rights then encouraged them to work with and support the businesses. Either party cannot survive without the other. It is not a zero-sum game, and all parties need to work together to secure win-win-win outcomes. Tripartism was built upon this principle that the workers, employers and government must work well together. Since Mr Lee made his inaugural May Day Rally speech in 1960, the tripartite partners have never wavered from the belief that the workers, employers and government must collaborate.
6. Today, the tripartite partners take pride in creating a fair and progressive society where the workers’ welfare is protected as businesses flourish. We all have to do our part to support one another to create fair and harmonious workplaces. Amidst the rapid pace of industry transformation and dynamic demand for skills, we also have to ramp up training efforts and embrace lifelong learning for workers and employers alike. That’s why you see NTUC and SNEF paying a lot more attention to the upskilling of workers now than before.
Co-creating our hopes and dreams for tripartism
7. When we first arrived at this event, some of you were asked to provide your thoughts on your vision, dreams and hopes for the future of tripartism. I thank you for your contributions. Our artist has since put together and transformed your inputs into the art piece that you see on the screen now.
8. The one thing that struck me from the collective voices today was the common theme of optimism and positivity in the future of Singapore. Some of you mentioned how we pulled through the pandemic and other challenges, and how we can continue to chart the path ahead together as one. Many cited the belief that we will carry on the spirit of collaboration and tripartism to achieve win-win-win outcomes. Your voices gave us hope and as our model of tripartism evolves, we must ensure our workers are not left behind, businesses remain competitive, and workplaces are fair and harmonious.
Call to action for youths
9. I am heartened to see youths from the Singapore Polytechnic and Singapore Management University here with us today. Today's event has given you a glimpse of how tripartism has helped to shape Singapore’s journey. It has not been easy, and we look to you, the young people in this room to be our future leaders in Government, in the unions and businesses, to keep the flame of tripartism burning strong.
10. I encourage you to share the stories that you heard today and your reflections from this event with other friends, so that it is ingrained in us that we must not take the peaceful and harmonious industrial relations in Singapore for granted.
11. As we conclude this event, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to NTUC, SNEF, the unions and employer associations for working hand in hand to continually come up with win-win-win solutions across many issues. I hope that all of us here today will also support the Tripartite Collective in its engagement of the wider community, on strengthening tripartism in Singapore. Let us remember the vision of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his belief in the power of collaboration. Thank you everyone.