The Singapore National Trades Union Congress (SNTUC) supports the International Labour Organization Director-General’s call to forge a Global Coalition for Social Justice.
NTUC President Mary Liew made this salient point at the 111th session of the ILO conference held on 9 June 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland.
In her speech, Ms Liew, as the Singapore Workers’ Delegate at the ILO, highlighted that the pandemic has aggravated pre-existing inequalities in the labour market and set back efforts to achieve the 2030 UN Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs).
“There is an urgent need for greater global cooperation so that societies can get back on track to pursue social justice, in particular in protecting the most vulnerable and marginalised, end poverty, ensure equal opportunity, and mitigate inequality and dislocation,” she said.
The ILO Director-General Gilbert F Houngbo has called on member-states to build the coalition at the conference’s opening on 5 June 2023. He spoke about the deep-seated inequalities that still exist in the fourth industrial revolution, pointing out that around 4 billion people worldwide have no social protection, with about 214 million workers earning below the poverty threshold. The Coalition would pave the way towards the emergence of a new global social contract.
In her speech, Ms Liew called on tripartite constituents of the ILO to work together both at the National and International levels so that the “Global Coalition can help shape a renewed Social Contract with all workers – a social contract which provides greater assurance to workers on better wages, welfare and work prospects; and workplaces where EVERY WORKER MATTERS”.
Refreshing Compact with Workers
She outlined the three-pronged strategy that the SNTUC has embarked on to refresh the labour movement’s compact with workers. They are scaling up its efforts on the SNTUC’s initiative of the Company Training Committees (CTC); doing more and better, for underserved segments of the workforce and setting in place a Culture of Innovation within the Singapore Labour Movement to better serve the evolving needs of the union members.
“In forging a refreshed compact with workers, SNTUC aims to co-create an economically vibrant and inclusive Singapore, where every worker can have the dignity of making a good living and improving their lives,” she pointed out.
Furthermore, she expressed her hopes for better social justice, not only in Singapore but internationally, and looks forward to working closely with her tripartite partners to contribute to the Global Coalition on Social Justice. By sharing experiences in refreshing her compact with workers in Singapore and to promote social justice to achieve the 2030 UN SDGs.
‘We believe that by making the SNTUC a stronger labour movement, we can be a valued tripartite partner in our national efforts to build a better Singapore with a refreshed social compact to address the challenges faced by workers,” Ms Liew added.
In her speech, Ms Liew also paid tribute to the front-line workers for putting their lives, safety and even freedom at risk by continuing to toil long hours to keep healthcare systems and the global supply chains moving during the COVID pandemic. “With a heart of gratitude, I would like to say a big “Thank You” to our front-line workers, the unsung heroes.”
Singapore Government committed to help workers, Minister Tan See Leng assures
In his plenary speech on 9 June, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng highlighted Singapore Government’s commitment to continue to help workers seize new career opportunities as Singapore transforms its economy.
“The Singapore government has committed to journey with our workers every step of the way in their careers. Together with our tripartite partners, we will do our part to ensure that growth remains inclusive and workers reap the benefits as one continues to transform its economy,” Dr Tan said.
The Singapore government will empower workers to seize new career opportunities by working with the tripartite partners to build up the employment resilience and prospects for workers.
“First, we will empower workers with information on career opportunities they can consider and the pathways to get there.
“Second, we will support workers in developing a personalised career plan, with upskilling and reskilling where necessary and taking on career opportunities for growth and development.
“And third, we will study how to provide better support and assurance for displaced workers while nudging them towards active job search and skills upgrading.”
For lower-wage workers, Singapore adopts a tripartite approach that “combines skills upgrading, productivity improvements and career progression pathways so that wage increases are sustainable”.
“We call this the Progressive Wage Model (PWM),” Dr Tan said.
Dr Tan pointed out that the nine in 10 full-time lower-wage workers are expected to have benefitted from the PWM by July 2023.
On helping platform workers, Dr Tan said that the Government is working with tripartite partners to introduce legislation that would help them increase their retirement savings, get compensation for injuries while at work, and allow them to be represented in collective bargaining.
As for migrant workers, the Government has enhanced their medical support by setting up dedicated medical centres across the country and introducing an outpatient healthcare plan for them so that they care receive more seamless access to a range of services such as acute and chronic care.
“Singapore’s approach to uplifting workers is aligned with the ILO human centred approach for advancing social justice and promoting decent work,” Dr Tan said.
“Singapore looks forward to continue working with the ILO in preparing for the future of work.”