GPS approach to workers will ensure S’pore moves toward the right direction

02/03/2022

A strong tripartite partnership will enable workers to benefit from better growth, protection and skills – or GPS – according to Deputy Secretary-General of the labour movement Chee Hong Tat.

While this GPS shows us how to get there, we must be prepared to calibrate measures so that we never lose sight of the destination, said Mr Chee in Parliament on Mar 1.

Pursuing growth

Mr Chee emphasised the need for continual growth so that workers can benefit from it.

An economy without sufficient growth will result in a zero-sum game, where one group can only gain at the expense of another, and such an outcome will intensify social conflict.

“Instead of win-win, we have win-lose. And when cohesion is affected, win-lose will soon become lose-lose,” he said.

He highlighted the formation of Company Training Committees (CTCs), an ecosystem designed to support workers to get better job prospects through training.

Not only that, this ecosystem also provide companies with a wide range of services, including transforming the business.

Till date, there are 826 CTCs with both large organisations and SMEs, he said.

The CTCs can help realise a win-win outcome. Mr Chee gave the example of Certact Engineering, which after transformation has more than doubled its revenue and is expanding its operations, while the workers received significant wage increases as a result.

He added that the labour movement will go beyond the original target of forming 1,000 CTCs by this year to a more ambitious target of at least 2,500 CTCs by 2025.

Enhancing protection

Onto protection, Mr Chee said that NTUC will expand its services to protect even more vulnerable workers such as persons with disabilities and ex-offenders.

Although he noted that the number of vulnerable workers may be small, it is nevertheless a meaningful area for the tripartite partners to focus on.

“To build a more caring and inclusive society, we must do our best to leave no one behind,” he said.

Other than partnering social enterprises and agencies like Agape Connecting People, Yellow Ribbon, Singapore Prison Service and SG Enable to protect these workers, another way is to keep Singapore an open economy and continue to connect with the world.

“We believe this balanced approach is better for our local workers, compared to the populist stance of rejecting free trade agreements and turning away foreigners and foreign investments,” he added.

Aware that some companies do not practice fair hiring and do not invest enough in developing their Singaporean Core, Mr Chee ensured that they are the minority.

One way to differentiate errant and good employers would be by rewarding the good ones in tangible ways such as giving them a competitive advantage over their peers, including in areas such as government projects, grants, and work pass applications.

While the labour movement will protect rice bowls, Mr Chee said that it is not enough and used a rice analogy to explain.

“Having an empty rice bowl does not help our workers. They cannot eat the bowl. To enable our workers to have better jobs and better lives, we must also protect our rice fields and ensure that the fields are productive and can yield bountiful harvests year after year. Then the rice bowls of our workers and their families will be filled with rice,” he said.  

Skills upgrading

A good job is the best welfare for workers and the best protection for their employability is through continual skills upgrading, said Mr Chee.

However, jobs-skills mismatch remain very real in the market and thus the proposal of forming Tripartite Academies, bringing together unions, employers, and Government agencies to jointly identify industry-specific skills requirements so that workers can receive relevant job training that prepares them for employment.

“The tripartite coordination can help achieve better alignment, improve job placement rates, and reduce wasted time and effort for both employers and job seekers,” he added.

Besides the recently setup Tourism Careers Hub, NTUC is also discussing with employers and government agencies to set up Tripartite Academies in sectors such as to explore setting up Tripartite Academies in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, retail, logistics, security, healthcare and maritime.

A move toward the right direction

The Party cares deeply for the welfare and livelihood of all our workers and the efforts and suggestions put forth by Mr Chee are testament to that.

As Mr Chee mentioned, a win-lose situation is not helpful nor is it good for our economy and society. The tripartite partnership will ensure that a win-win remains the destination.

“As a navigation tool, GPS can show us how to get to our destination, but GPS cannot get us there unless we embark on the journey,” he said.

Indeed, the GPS approach is the right one to show us the way but we must first work together and make the first step.

Cover photo credit: MCI youtube and photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash