SINGAPORE: Promising officers from the civil service and leaders from the labour unions will be cross-posted and cross-attached to strengthen the tripartite partnership, labour chief Chan Chun Sing announced at the International Forum on Tripartism on Monday (Oct 26). The forum was held at the Devan Nair Institute of Employment and Employability.
There will be two groups of civil servants in the cross-posting and cross-attachment scheme. The first group will consist of civil servants posted to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and officers from the labour movement to the civil service for two-year stints.
Mr Chan said this will help both parties better understand policies and ground sentiments. Eventually it is hoped that this will help both the government and unions cross pollinate ideas and generate better policies for workers.
The second group will see civil servants attached to the unions on a non-permanent basis to understand the challenges on the ground. The first batch will consist of 10 to 20 officials who have signed up for this scheme, and they will attend regular meetings with the unions. Mr Chan said this will help civil servants understand the concerns of the unions.
For a start, two officers from civil service will be posted to NTUC and one NTUC officer will be posted to the civil service. This is expected to start at the end of the year. Officers will come from across the civil service and not just the Ministry of Manpower.
He said: “I think there are quite a few benefits that we can see from this. First I think the unions will benefit from perspectives that the civil servants might share. Number two, I think the civil servants will also benefit from the perspective the unions can share on what the ground issues are and how the ground may perceive policies.
"So all this are cross-pollination of perspectives which I think will add to the robustness of how we do things – both at the policy level and how we execute policies at the ground level.”
Mr Chan, who is the Secretary-General of the NTUC, said the Singapore National Employers Federation is also keen to come onboard this scheme to have a tripartite understanding of labour issues.
The International Labour Organization's Director-General Guy Ryder said that Singapore has a strong tripartite structure and mechanism that is based on trust and permanent commitment to find solutions for a common vision.
"In Singapore I think you have the proof of the effectiveness of your tripartism," said Mr Ryder. "The effects are there for everybody to see. In terms of economic growth, in terms of employment, in terms of improved living conditions. I think Singapore tripartism passes the essential test of good results."
Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say noted that it is important to build trust within the tripartite movement to survive both good and bad times. He also said tripartism is a permanent feature in Singapore and can exist with strong unionisation.
"Unionisation, tripartism is not about preventing bad practices, but in fact it is the opposite," said Mr Lim. "It's about promoting best practices. For example, in Singapore we don't believe that treating workers fairly is good enough. In fact, we want our tripartite partners to work together so that we can all treat our workers progressively, not just fairly. So therefore we are going for progressive practices, rather than just fair practices."
Looking forward, Mr Lim said initiatives such as restructuring the economy and preparing workers with skills for the future will ensure Singapore remains relevant and competitive.