Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng

This was one of the key priorities Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng shared in his May Day message, where he also talked about continuing the upskilling of the local workforce, as well as measures to strengthen employment protections.

In line with the aspirations to move Singapore's landscape into the future of work, Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng has urged employers and employees alike to continue fostering mutual trust and support, as preferences shift in favour of flexible work arrangements (FWAs) globally and in the nation. 

As such, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has committed to raising the adoption of the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements to cover at least four in 10 workers by the end of this year. In addition, the Ministry is developing a set of Tripartite Guidelines that are expected to set the norms and practices for flexible work arrangements (FWAs).

This was one of the key priorities the Minister shared in his May Day message, where he also talked about continuing the upskilling of the local workforce, as well as measures to strengthen employment protections.

Here's all you need to know from Minister Tan See Leng's May Day message. 

Recapping the fight against COVID-19

Minister Tan affirmed that since the pandemic, the foremost economic challenge has been to preserve livelihood and minimise the number of jobless Singaporeans as each month dragged on.

On this, he credited the efforts of the tripartite partners in acting swiftly decisively, for example, the National Wages Council convened four times in two years, the tripartite partners issued supplementary guidelines for employers to implement temporary wage cuts to the extent necessary to minimise retrenchments (in October 2020), and employers were called on to urgently adopt the Flexible Wage System to sustain businesses and save jobs in the immediate term.

With this year marking the 50th year of the National Wages Council, he conveyed sincere appreciation to the body in formulating wage and wage-related guidelines, while balancing the needs of growing business and workers' welfare, with special acknowledgement to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), who rallied workers as a key member of the Council. As of October 2021, the tripartite partners have called for easing of the exceptional wage policies introduced earlier.

The path ahead to reimagine the future of work in Singapore: Three key priorities

MOM chief Dr Tan listed out three key priorities for the year, and decade, ahead:

1) Upskilling the local workforce

The mission of ensuring that "no worker is left behind" will continue. A total of 800 company training committees have been formed by NTUC since April 2019, helping companies to chalk out their transformation plans in line with the Industry Transformation Maps, while sharing that growth with workers through better wages, welfare and work prospects.

Further, the Progressive Wage approach will charge on. In this decade, MOM targets to implement the recommendations of the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers, by expanding Progressive Wages to more sectors and occupations to cover up to 9 in 10 lower-wage workers.

2) Strengthening protection for workers 

Strengthening employment protections and ensuring a more balanced relationship between workers and platform is the next priority, for which an Advisory Committee on Platform Workers - comprising representatives from the government, labour movement, industry and academia - is already reviewing what can be done. 

To date, the Minister cited, MOM has reached out to more than 20,000 platform workers, and these will continue to shape its recommendations to improve platform workers' wellbeing.

In addition, with the view of strengthening fairness at the workplace, the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness is working towards enshrining the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices in law. To this, Minister Tan affirmed: "It will send a strong signal that we do not tolerate workplace discrimination of any form, and broaden the range of actions that can be taken in the event of a breach."

3) Mutual trust and support in the future of work

On this, the Minister affirmed the global shift in employer and employee preferences for flexible work arrangements. As such, as listed out in the start of this article, he committed to efforts to raise the adoption of the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements to cover at least four in 10 workers by end-2022. He also announced plans underway to develop a set of Tripartite Guidelines that will set norms and practices for FWAs.

The importance of tripartism in Singapore

Calling Singapore's tripartite approach "unique and exceptional", Dr Tan credited Ministry of Manpower, NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation's collaborative efforts in managing the impact of COVID-19, from the implementation of safe management measures to carrying out retrenchments responsibly. He urged all three partners to sustain t his spirit of collaboration and trust in the years and decades ahead.

The Minister concluded: "As the Labour Movement expands its membership base and works towards its target of 1.5mn members by 2030, we can look forward to further entrenching the spirit of tripartism in our economy. NTUC will continue innovating its operating model to adapt to the evolving labour landscape - so as to ensure workers are better skilled and can enjoy better wages, better welfare and better work prospects.

"We are confident that with the close cooperation between NTUC and employers, and with MOM standing ever ready to render support, we can build a resilient Singapore for everyone.

"Happy May Day!"

Image / NTUC

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