Secrets of the NTUC Constitution

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Since the NTUC is not a government body, neither is it a corporate organization, how does it conduct its operations and decision-making policies?

When the NTUC’s Central Committee co-opted Minister of Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing as it Deputy Secretary-General, I have friends asking how the decision was made.

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There is a lot of guesswork about what happens inside the NTUC. Some common questions include:

  • Who and what is the Central Committee,
  • Why is there a need for so many Deputy Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General?

To start with, the entire organisation (which is huge) is governed by what is called a Constitution.

You might then ask, “What is the NTUC constitution?”

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In a nutshell, the constitution is a set of laws and principles that govern the organisation. 

Just as a country has its own laws and regulations, the NTUC is also guided by the constitution. What got me curious is, how does the organisation operate? Here are a couple of points I thought was of interest:

1.) The Central Committee is the highest-decision making body of the NTUC. 

2.) This Central Committee is made up of 21 members to be elected by secret ballot by the elected and cadre delegates at or before a Delegate’s Conference.

3.) It will also consist of a Secretary-General, if the holder of the office is not one of the 21 elected members.

4.) The Secretariat shall consist of a Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-Generals not more than 3, Assistant Secretary-Generals not exceeding 5, the Secretary for Financial Affairs and other Secretaries decided by the Central Committee.

5.) The Central Committee holds office for a period of four years. This means that the current term of office will end in October 2015. 

national trades union congress NTUC MOM Singapore

6.) The National Delegates’ Conference (NDC) which is held once every four years will be held by this year and will see the election of a new Central Committee. 

7.) The Congress may only be dissolved if more than three-quarters of the affiliates vote to do so. All remaining assets will be divided amongst the affiliates, upon dissolution, in proportion to the amounts subscribed in fees and levies.

8.) The organisation will promote a democratic, socialist society and will resist anywhere and everywhere the economic and social exploitation of man-by-man

An amendment was made to the Constitution in 2011 to renew its leaders to help the labour movement stay relevant and representative. The 3-Flow framework allows the nurturing of generation after generation of leaders of the labour movement.

“3-Flow” is how the NTUC describes its leadership renewal program – that where the leader, when he/she reaches the age of 62, it is time to “flow-on” ie. resign and move on. It makes way for others to “flow-in” (to bring on new blood) and to “flow-up” (promotion).

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Arthur Lee

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