NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s industrial harmony cannot be taken for granted, said labour chief Ng Chee Meng at the May Day Rally 2024 on Wednesday, May 1, The Business Times reports.

Thankfully, in Singapore, we have enjoyed industrial harmony for decades. But sometimes, we start to think that this harmony is the natural state of things, come what may. But this is not true.

We need to guard against such complacent thinking. Industrial harmony is not the natural state of being. It takes careful nurturing, give, and take,” Mr Ng, NTUC’s secretary-general, noted in a statement released by NTUC.

Amid global uncertainties like trade, tech wars, and regional conflicts, workers worldwide resort to strikes; Mr Ng highlighted the growing concerns among PMEs, stating, “Increasingly, PMEs have heightened job insecurities and anxieties.

Technologies that once only displaced skills-based jobs are now threatening more knowledge-based jobs, including those held by PMEs.”

However, Singapore has maintained industrial harmony through collaboration among the labour movement, government, and employers. “Tripartism remains key to Singapore’s success,” he said.

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Mr Ng also paid tribute to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was present at the rally, for his pivotal role in fostering this collaboration. As Mr Lee prepares to step down, Mr Ng acknowledged his “leadership and unwavering support.”

He said, “Your strategic leadership and unwavering support have strengthened the bond between the PAP (People’s Action Party) and the NTUC.

Having the government to be on the side of workers and on the side of employers at the same time is really the secret sauce of our tripartism.”

Reflecting on a past Cabinet meeting, he recounted advocating for workers’ interests in a development plan, showcasing Mr Lee’s receptiveness to workers’ concerns—a gesture Mr Ng hailed as “leadership care in action.”

After expressing gratitude to Mr Lee, Mr Ng also assured Mr Lawrence Wong, the incoming prime minister, of the labour movement’s unwavering support. He commended Mr Wong’s advocacy for workers, notably during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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In his address, he highlighted the expansion of Company Training Committees (CTCs), a move aimed at enhancing workers’ skills and safeguarding their livelihoods.

He said to Mr Wong, who was also present at the rally, “I hope to call on you, DPM, soon to scale our CTC grant as well.”

He also noted the growth in NTUC’s membership base, particularly among professionals, managers, and executives (PMEs), who constitute a growing segment of Singapore’s workforce.

He stressed the labour movement’s commitment to PMEs, citing initiatives to protect their rights and enhance career prospects.

He also cited Lazada’s retrenchments earlier this year, during which union negotiations yielded better outcomes for PMEs facing retrenchment.

Looking ahead, he reassured workers of the movement’s continued advocacy, promising support for diverse worker demographics, including youth, caregivers, mature workers, and low-wage earners.

He said, “To PMEs, even as we celebrate our initial successes today, know that this is only a base from which we will scale new heights together with you.” /TISG