Unionisation around the world is shrinking and one glance at this graph should be enough to remind us workers why we should be concerned.
In Singapore though, union membership continues to rise. This happens because of the simple fact that unions in Singapore have moved beyond the role of a simple bargainer, to a co-owner of this country. As a co-owner, it has one mission: to keep unemployment low, to raise wages and translate business gains into social gains for all.
(Median Salaries have been rising in Singapore throughout the years)
Charged with a mission to keep unemployment low and wages high, the task of unions now has been dealt another challenge. To balance the social landscape in the reduction of foreign labour. This cannot be done without the execution of a tool called “
Workers do not operate in a vacuum. They are affected by two other parties – hired by employers and governed by legislation. So when we talk about
, we refer to the relationships between governments, employers and unions. We take it for granted that the relationship is healthy in Singapore, but most other countries do not get to enjoy this. Breakdown in communication can, and has resulted in friction, friction that contributes to wearing down of business.
If we want an inclusive and cohesive society, we need a vibrant economy. Without a vibrant economy, we cannot create good jobs for everyone else and the low income citizens suffer the brunt of it.
Like a British politician once said, “…the Opposition doesn’t mind that the poor remain poor, as long as the rich do not get richer”. Seeing the economy as something that is good for the rich, is a very simplistic and narrow view.
To have a grasp of ground sentiment, I spoke to a Mr. Chia N.H, a person strongly connected with the property industry.
I asked Mr. Chia about his views on the employment situation. “The biggest worry for me are short term pains” he said. Whilst there is a slew of aid packages, grants and assistance, business may not be quick to adapt. “Some business may not be prepared for this and I hope that the Government will take into consideration some flexibility and time for us”.
Some think that the expectations needed from the ground today is a little ambitious: people need to upgrade their skills, businesses need to re-invent themselves and in the face of it all, consolidations are inevitable. Less agile companies will shut and their resources redeployed.
I think all this is healthy. We cannot have a bourgeois society dominated by corporations, neither can people survive without good jobs that businesses bring about. The ambitions laid out by leaders of the Labour Movement and the Government looks aggressive. By next year, when the “minimum wage” component of Progressive Wage comes about, we may see even stronger reactions by business leaders.
Whoever said that nation building was an easy thing to do? That’s what we pay these politicians for don’t we? ;)