Straits Times: WP sees tripartite ties as hurting workers

THE Workers’ Party (WP) yesterday attacked the tripartite ties of government, employers and workers for leaving the worker in a disadvantaged position compared to the other two partners.

In the opposition party’s May Day statement yesterday issued by its chairman, Ms Sylvia Lim, it challenged the Government’s stand that the tripartite structure has resulted in harmonious labour relations, saved jobs and restored investor confidence.

Without naming labour chief Lim Boon Heng, the statement said that Singapore’s labour movement has a minister in charge of it and he ensures that its direction is in line with the Government’s.

The biggest trade union in Singapore has a “symbiotic relationship” with the ruling party, it noted.

“While the adopted model of tripartism between government, employer and worker appears attractive in theory, its practice during times of economic hardship manifests the inequality of bargaining power in this ‘tripartite’ relationship,” said the party.

During the economic downturn, “the upper hand of management and the Government” has ensured that workers are the first to be asked to make financial sacrifices.

These include taking pay cuts and accepting Central Provident Fund cuts regardless of the company’s profit situation.

It added that pre-emptive retrenchments “in the name of making companies more competitive” had resulted in business owners making huge profits.

WP also said it was deeply concerned that hardship will continue to fall on families as there is a lack of a social safety net.

Even with schemes in place for retraining, skills upgrading and job matching, the party believes that not all workers will be able to catch up with the knowledge-based economy and remain employable in the restructuring process.

“The typical middle-aged worker in Singapore is still heavily committed in debt and yet faces disadvantages in the job market to command an income level commensurate with his financial commitments and retirement needs.”

The party said that it joined Singapore workers in “fervent hope” for an economic recovery which it said will mean a higher income for workers and more employment security.

It also expressed condolences to the families of workers who lost their lives in the two recent worksite collapse tragedies, and urged for an overhaul in safety standards at construction sites.