Good jobs, good salaries
New labour chief Chan Chun Sing's mission is to ensure S'poreans continue to have...
Mr Chan Chun Sing took over from Mr Lim Swee Say as secretarygeneral of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) yesterday. Singapore’s new labour chief shared his goals and challenges with reporters last week
WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES AS LABOUR CHIEF AND WHERE IS NTUC HEADING?
The broad direction won't change from Mr Lim Swee Say's time.
In the labour movement, regardless of which era, the evergreen question is: How can we make sure our workers have good jobs and good salaries to take care of themselves and their families?
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES AHEAD?
(One of the main challenges is to make) the environment for job creation in Singapore...more positive, (and to maintain) a competitive advantage (over) other countries.
Other countries are competing with more abundant manpower, cheaper manpower, cheaper production cost and so on. They are catching up in these areas.
We must have a conducive environment to attract investment and... (we) cannot compete based on prices and quantity.
(We need to find) the areas to go into to upskill and upgrade our workers so that they don't compete on price but on quality, creativity and trust.
One of the (reasons investors are) prepared to invest in Singapore and create jobs here is simply because our overall business environment, overall labour management relationship is unique.
It gives them stability and the chance to build up their business over the long term. This is one of our unique competitive advantages.
One of our top challenges is (to) build on these and keep this (tripartite) relationship unique and special, so that it's one of our competitive advantages.
We have had this unique relationship for many years because this has been forged over many years and many challenges, crises and so forth. But we cannot rest on our laurels.
We need to groom a new generation of tripartite partners starting from young to make sure that in five, 10, 15 years time, we have the same, if not stronger, tripartite relationship.
WHAT ARE THE GROUND ISSUES YOU HAVE BEEN HEARING ABOUT FROM WORKERS AND COMPANIES?
By and large, the workers are progressive and they understand the need to upgrade and to keep abreast with the competition. But they also face challenges.
As we bring in many of the higher value industries, the previous generation of workers needs to be helped and trained. To be frank, there's only so much that can be done. So even as we transform our economy, we must not run ahead of what our own labour supply can cope with.
The average life-span of a company and product line is shrinking. The chances of people doing a job for their whole life is becoming increasingly rare. This means the younger generation have to keep upgrading throughout their whole life cycle.
YOU'VE HAD A PRETTY SHORT RUNWAY UP TO LEADING NTUC. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT AND WHAT IS YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE?
The truth is that whenever you take over a job, you always hope to have the longest runway but life is never such that you can have everything you want. But you make do, make the best of what you have.
I'm the type of person that if someone offers me an opportunity, and if I think I can make a contribution, and if the person is willing to give me a chance, I'll go all out to do my best.
Since January, every day has been an intensive programme to visit the unions, (companies and partners) to hear from them and to understand their issues and challenges. We always ask them how we can help to value add. I am halfway through visiting the unions under us.
Every organisation requires a different leadership style. A good leader is not one who has a particular style - though we all have our own idiosyncrasies - but one who can bring out the best from his team by adapting his leadership style.
He'll make a good labour chief
ST FILE PHOTO
Former labour chief Lim Swee Say (above) said Mr Chan Chun Sing has the right qualities to be an effective link between the Government and unions.
He said Mr Chan is a hard worker who is close to the ground and has all the core attributes to be a good labour chief, reported The Straits Times last week.
Mr Chan joined NTUC in January and was the deputy secretary-general before becoming secretary-general.
Said Mr Lim: "His office is just next to mine... most of the time I don't see him in his office, he is on the ground all the time."
He said Mr Chan listens well, and learns and thinks fast.
"I would say he has the core attributes that will make him an effective secretary-general."
He added: "Whether the person is groomed from within or from outside is not critical. What is critical is that firstly this person, his heart must be with the labour movement."