Tripartism – the Strong Enabler and Pillar of Strength

  • Post published:10 May 2022

Brother Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Transport and NTUC Deputy Secretary-General, kicked off the SMOU seminar on Charting the Singapore Maritime Manpower Transformation by singing in a hearty voice a familiar tune to the Labour Movement in Singapore.

Solidary Forever”, also known as the NTUC Song, got the audience in the right frame of mind to uphold tripartism as “a strong enabler and a pillar of strength in the maritime sector”, as Brother Hong Tat said.

Cheering him on in the audience were SMOU General Secretary Mary Liew, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) Chief Executive Sister Quah Ley Hoon, Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) President Sister Caroline, tripartite partners, and representatives from the unions, shipping companies, Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) and the maritime cluster. Among the guests were International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) General Secretary Stephen Cotton, and Nautilus General Secretary Mark Dickinson.

In his speech, Brother Hong Tat highlighted that workers’ buy-in and support when transforming the maritime industry is “very crucial”.

“We do not want to see transformation taking place as a separate event where management are doing transformation projects on your own and workers are not involved,” he said.

Without the workers’ buy in and support, the solutions may not be long lasting nor sustainable. For the solutions to work well, they have to be “implementable, feasible and sustainable”.

Tripartism is therefore a good platform for collaboration and pushing boundaries. He went on to encourage companies to set up the Company Training Committees (CTC). “That is the first step. However, it is what we do with the CTC, that is likely going to be key”, he said.

Brother Hong Tat pointed out that the Ministry of Finance has agreed to NTUC’s proposal to set aside $100 million to scale up efforts to help CTC companies implement concrete training and transformation programmes. Out of the grant, $30 million will be used to develop a team of industry training officers within NTUC that will “go out and work with the CTC companies through the unions”; $70 million will be for co-funding CTC companies’ job redesign, training and other transformation projects.

The industry transformation will “help to make every workplace a better workplace, make every job a better job, make every worker a better worker, so that we can then match the better worker to the better job.”

“This cannot be done by NTUC alone nor by the government alone. We need to work together with our employers through our tripartite partnership.”

Signifying the aligned objective towards transforming the maritime workforce, the Maritime Tripartite partners – MPA and SMOU – signed a Memorandum of Understand during the SMOU seminar. The signing was witnessed by Brother Chee Hong Tat and General Secretary of Singapore Port Workers’ Union, NTUC Secretary of Financial Affairs and the Chairman of NTUC Maritime Cluster, Brother Arasu Duraisamy.

In the minds of many, Solidarity Forever rings loud and clear.

The Charting the Singapore Maritime Manpower Transformation seminar held at Marina Bay Sands is part of the Singapore Maritime Week (4-8 April 2022).

At the opening of the SMW 2022, Deputy Prime Minister Brother Heng Swee Keat announced the Refreshed Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map which laid out many exciting plans for the maritime industry. This includes developing a future-ready maritime workforce equipped with global skillsets and creating 1,000 additional good local jobs by 2025. A Maritime Industry Tripartite Transformation Committee that will steer the execution of this refreshed ITM was also announced.

Unions want to see companies thrive, says Sister Mary

“Because when you thrive, our workers life gets better as well. So please work with the unions to set up Company Training Committees. We are your collaborators.”

SMOU General Secretary Mary Liew said this in her closing remarks at the Charting the Singapore Maritime Manpower Transformation seminar.

“With the support of the Government funding and the MPA cluster fund, we can bring the maritime industry and our Seafarers to the next lap together.”

Describing the breakout room discussion and sharing of the Operation Training Roadmap (OTR) process that will take place in the CTC as robust, Sister Mary pointed out, “We cannot resolve the issues straight away but we want this platform to engage you to get your views.”

The question posed to the floor — “how can we, with the various organisations, move forward on Singapore Maritime Transformation (in terms of talent, training, jobs, skills)” — attracted rapid and varied views.

The suggestions put forth included scale up of Singapore core to be trained and certified; improve workplace safety and productivity with drones and automation; constantly review the value add of Singapore core talents; assess the competencies needed and future skills required; innovations to be driven by industry supported by government and more.

A few spoke about the passion and good work of SMOU in building the Singapore core through the Tripartite Maritime Training Award (TMTA).

Touched by the encouraging remarks and endorsement, Sister Mary pointed out that giving Singaporeans the second chance to come forward to join the maritime industry is “very close to the heart of SMOU”.  Some 400 candidates have since enrolled in TMTA and about 100 of them are now officers.

“It is very inspiring to hear their stories of how TMTA have given our cadets the second chance. We remain optimistic and persevere on in building the Singapore core,” said Sister Mary.

Other highlights of the seminar included the sharing by Assistant Director-General and Director, Training & Placement Division Brother Gilbert Tan on “CTC, The driver for Singapore Maritime Manpower Transformation”.

To date, more than 800 companies have embarked on CTC partnership with NTUC. Brother Gilbert called on employers to work with NTUC to develop their strategic/transformation road map; support CTC training and transformation initiatives; leverage on the training and placement ecosystem for funding and for training and placement solutions.

Workforce Singapore (WSG) Assistant Director Wong Koon Yin spoke about Understanding Career Conversion Programme for Sea Transport Professionals and covered WSG manpower schemes whilst MPA Senior Manager Mr Viknesh G shared on the Sea Transport ITM Refresh.

As Sister Mary pointed out, “this is the beginning of many conversations and partnership”.

“The seminar was really inspiring. It was truly an interesting discussion on a very relevant topic, something I’ve been very passionate about, which is the future maritime skills. One of the takeaways is the intensity of the debate. I’m always impressed when I come to Singapore, to witness the strength of tripartism is something I also believe in. When I go back to my own country, United Kingdom, I always say to them, we need to strengthen our social partnership, and our engagement with the government. And I use Singapore as an example.”

– Nautilus General Secretary Mark Dickinson.

“I think we should give seafarers new respect. What I see best in seafaring is we have people who are very loyal to the industry. This is their chosen career; they work hard and enjoy what they do. I can see that Singapore is doing its best  to get the younger generation into this line. I think they should with all the opportunities out there. It is definitely a good career path for Singaporeans.”

– Nalini Torres, OSM Ship Management Pte Ltd

“Tripartism is the government, union and company looking at the same problem from three different angles and having three different views and coming to a solution together. The word ‘together’ is the most important in tripartism.”

– Capt Mukul Bhargava, General Manager (Crewing), PACC Ship Managers Pte Ltd