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MP Melvin Yong calls for more industry committees

TODAY reports: The director of industrial relations at NTUC says efforts must be made to ensure tripartism flourishes and the future generation can see the value of such an "artificial construct". 

SINGAPORE: Just as there are various trade unions to represent the interests of specific groups of workers, a similar approach of having more industry committees under the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) for specific sectors is an idea worth considering.

Member of Parliament Melvin Yong, 44, who joined the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) last year as director of industrial relations after retiring as Assistant Commissioner of Police, will be discussing this in his maiden parliamentary speech next week, on ways to strengthen tripartism with various sectors.

He was giving TODAY and bloggers a preview of the issues he would be raising in the upcoming Parliament sessions, with a focus on tripartism, where the Government, the Labour Movement and employers adopt a consultative problem-solving approach to address workplace challenges for the mutual benefit of employers, workers and society.

Citing how tripartism works in the Public Transport Tripartite Committee, he said there are guidelines put up to protect bus drivers’ welfare under the new Government contracting model for public buses.

Still, he acknowledged that sectors have seen varying degrees of success, and there is a greater need for this spirit of tripartism to cascade to the next level within each sector, so that once-size-fits-all measures can give way to more industry-specific measures.

“In public transport, the number of major players is small. But if you take an industry, for example the electronics industry, there’ll probably be many players of different and diverse businesses,” he said.

“At the employers’ side, I think we need to have an NTUC-type of structure where the SNEF must have more ‘mini SNEFs’, which then represents their respective industry.”

Stressing that tripartism is part of Singapore’s economic competitive advantage, Mr Yong observed that cycles of crises and booms are getting shorter, and tripartism at the national level needs to be more robust if it is to withstand the pressures.

Beyond that, Mr Yong said that his four months at NTUC has made him realise that tripartism is an “artificial construct”, where a relationship between three parties with different interests requires constant work: “If we agree that tripartism is an artificial construction, then we must always make deliberate efforts to ensure it flourishes.”

“We should strive very hard to create awareness of tripartism so that when it’s time for (the next generation) to participate in tripartite collaboration, they can understand and appreciate what it has done for us and what it can do for us going forward,” he added.


NTUC’s director of youth development Desmond Choo, who is a Tampines GRC MP, also spoke to the media. He said the focus of his Parliamentary speech next week would centre on helping young workers prepare for work in new environments amid economic restructuring.

One of the challenges that millennials - those aged 35 years and below - face when entering the workforce is adapting to changes, when innovation disrupts traditional ways of work and new types of jobs crop up or skills learnt in school become irrelevant by the time students graduate, he said. Millennials also aspire to succeed across different domains in their life outside of work.

“When you put the two together, then you realise that maybe a lot more work needs to go into preparing them to adapt and thrive in new environments,” Mr Choo said.

Giving students more opportunities to reach out to industry peers and mentors, and changing workplace cultures to tap on the millennials’ strengths would be some of the items in his upcoming speech, as well as a segment on work arrangements for young parents. 

Read the original TODAY report here.