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NTUC to host new global conference on tripartism in October

Outgoing labour chief Lim Swee Say told reporters that the conference would be a platform to reflect on how Singapore has been able to get tripartism to work in a pro-business and pro-worker way. The event would also be a way for international participants to learn from each other's models of tripartism.


THE National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is organising a new global conference later this year to discuss tripartism and to share Singapore's experience of it with other countries, said outgoing labour chief Lim Swee Say on Monday.

The event will take place in October, in conjunction with a regional meeting of union leaders and the NTUC elections at its National Delegates' Conference.

Mr Lim, in an interview at the NTUC's headquarters in Raffles Place, said: "We feel that tripartism has played a very important part in the building of our nation, and we thought that we should have a platform to reflect on how we have been able to get tripartism to work in a pro-business and pro-worker manner."

He disclosed that Guy Ryder, the director-general of the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation, will attend the international tripartism forum and deliver the keynote address.

The labour movement has already sent out invitations to its tripartite partners from many countries for the event, which will showcase Singapore's strength in tripartism and be an opportunity for participants to learn from each other's models.

The tripartite partners in Singapore are the NTUC, the Manpower Ministry and the Singapore National Employers Federation, which represent the unions, government and employers respectively.

NTUC president Diana Chia, in her annual May Day Message released on Monday, noted that Singapore's tripartism had grown from strength to strength over the years:

"This relationship is underpinned by the strong trust and alignment among the tripartite leaders to deliver the best pro-employer and pro-worker outcomes possible."

This has enabled the country to chalk up a high employment rate, and its workers, to enjoy steady increases in real wages, which "many other countries struggle to achieve or maintain", she said.

She stressed that while the challenge was to strengthen tripartism at the national level, it was just as important to bring tripartism to the sectoral level.

"Government agencies work with employer groups and trade unions in each sector to chart out strategies that will deliver productivity and skills breakthroughs so that Singapore, and Singaporeans, can continue to prosper," said Ms Chia.

Mr Lim, who also penned a May Day Message - his final one as labour chief before stepping down on Sunday to become the new Manpower Minister - wrote that Singapore has been successful over the last 50 years because the NTUC has "never stopped preparing for the future".

He said that, with the world changing at a much faster pace today, there was a need to sharpen the focus on two fronts - SkillsFuture, through which workers will pick up skills to enhance their future employability, and JobsFuture, to help more businesses transform existing jobs and create new ones to boost the country's future competitiveness.

"We must move faster on both fronts, failing which we may see a rise in unemployment due to skill shortages, and under-employment due to a mismatch between future jobs and future skills," he said.

"We could then regress and become just a normal country with an ordinary economy and ordinary workforce. This will be painful. We don't want this kind of future for ourselves, and definitely not for our children."