'Tripartite trust can help S’pore emerge stronger from Covid-19'

This article is more than 12 months old

The trust between workers, employers and the Government that Singapore has built has created win-win situations, with a much bigger pie for both capital and wage gains to grow over the years, labour chief Ng Chee Meng said yesterday.

Such tripartism has inspired faith among workers and employers, and is a strength that can help Singapore weather the storm brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, he added in an interview with The Straits Times.

Mr Ng, who is the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general, noted that many workers are worried, and there is a gnawing sense of anxiety about their livelihoods and jobs. But he added that while job losses will be inevitable amid the challenging conditions, Singapore has strengths and can emerge stronger.

"Don't let it be all gloom and doom because we must have that tenacity, with a vision forward to be able to overcome the challenge of Covid-19," Mr Ng said in the interview, which was aired on ST's The Big Story.

He referred to the trust in the tripartite movement as an "open secret ingredient", which is hard to forge, that makes for a relationship that allows for possibilities not always visible to the public.

"With this trust that we have in the labour movement, in tripartism... we could persuade workers - look at the big picture, and it is not just during Covid-19 but other circumstances as well.

"If the company were to fail, what happens to all the rice bowls? Equally shattered," Mr Ng said, adding that in these circumstances where the labour movement has experience working with employers, it is able to evaluate how it can help share the burden in supporting workers during crises.

Given Singapore's open economy and position as a trading nation, it would be emerging into a "much more troubled world" when it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and needs to be prepared for that.

This calls for a greater push for Industry 4.0 and Workers 4.0, Mr Ng said, noting that there are now more companies ready to move forward with transformation, with some having pivoted and set themselves up for a better trajectory for recovery.

Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution, which sees traditional processes like manufacturing transformed by technology, automation and data, requiring jobs to be transformed or lost.