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Tripartism movement gets formal body to push for fair, progressive workplaces
THE decades-old tripartism movement in Singapore has finally been given formal recognition with the setting up of Tripartite Alliance Ltd, a body which will pool the efforts and resources of the government, employers and workers to push for fair, progressive workplaces.
The newly registered limited company, set up by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and the National Trades Union (NTUC), will take under its wing two bodies - the new Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep).
The difference between the two is that Tafep's mission is to prevent disputes by advocating good workplace practices, while the TADM's role lies in offering advice, mediating and settling disputes between workers and their employers over pay and other issues.
TADM begins operations on Saturday with around 70 employees transferred to it from MOM. Its functions have, till now, been undertaken by MOM, but unlike MOM, TADM has the overt backing of both employers and the unions.
Another limitation to MOM taking on the role of mediator lay in its jurisdiction being confined to workers covered by the Employment Act; this had excluded, especially, professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), who earn more than S$4,500 a month in basic pay. If PMETs had employment disputes, they had to go to court to get these settled - an expensive, often long-drawn process.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say launched TADM on Friday at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability in Jurong East, where Tripartite Alliance, with its total of 161 employees, will be based.
He said that PMETs, who have told him that they need help to resolve pay disputes, can now turn to TADM, which will not put a salary cap on the cases it handles. It will offer them a speedy, one-stop channel for the resolution of employment disputes - for a nominal registration fee of no more than S$20, which will be waived for low-wage workers.
Claims will, however, be capped at S$20,000; for union members, the cap is S$30,000.
Mediation is compulsory for salary claims, but voluntary for other types of disputes.
Following the announcement of the launch of TADM, the State Courts announced that the new Employment Claims Tribunals (ECTs) will open for business, also on Saturday.
Like the Small Claims Tribunals, ECTs will provide a speedy, low-cost way for workers to resolve employment disputes. It can hear claims for bonuses and retrenchment benefits, for example, for sums up to S$20,000; in cases where the dispute has undergone mediation assisted by the unions, the cap is S$30,000.
In announcing the setup of Tripartite Alliance Limited, Manpower Minister Lim said it will later also focus on workplace safety and health.
Stephen Lee, until recently president of the SNEF and chairman of Singapore Airlines, will spearhead Tripartite Alliance as chairman. The other members of its board of directors are NTUC leaders Heng Chee How and Tan Hock Soon; SNEF council members Douglas Foo and Han Kwee Juan; and MOM Permanent Secretary Aubeck Kam.
Mr Lee told reporters that Tripartite Alliance is an "important step in consolidating the progress made by tripartism", and that it would lay a new foundation to take tripartism in Singapore even further.
He added that Tripartite Alliance will, for the first time, give tripartism in Singapore "a structure", and indicated that it would also undertake research and collect data; there are no immediate plans for it to go into businesses, he said.
The MOM website, referring to tripartism as a key competitive advantage for Singapore, defines it as the collaboration among unions, employers and the government. The movement promotes industrial peace and harmonious labour-management relations and has played a key part in Singapore's economic progress.