Why do we need to sustain Tripartism?


Have you ever though about what the Labour Day celebrations are all about?

Labour Day is celebrated on May 1st in most parts of the world. In some countries, it is known as International Workers’ Day.  It celebrates the working class and labourers.


While some parts of the world see protests and strikes on Labour Day, Singapore celebrates May Day with a unifying rally which sees employers, workers and government officials coming together to celebrate the contribution of workers and to recommit to the cause for improving the lives of workers.

This multi-faceted relationship is portrayed in a simple framework called Tripartism.


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his 2015 May Day Rally speech that he speaks on Tripartism every year because it is a precious legacy that Singapore needs to protect.

“Government, workers and employers work constructively together on growing and upgrading the economy,” said PM Lee.

Two forum letters in the Straits Times in recent days have also came out to speak about tripartism.

One by Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng said the “partnership helps to promote our economic competitiveness, harmonious labour-management relations and overall progress of our nation.”

Another letter by Mr Anthony Goh Tee Kow speaks about the success of tripartism being “brought about by the Government’s strong leadership, backed by the people since 1965.”

Goh’s letter echoes PM Lee’s speech during the May Day Rally: “This system has delivered results not just over one or two election terms, but over five decades.”

Indeed, as PM Lee said, no other trade union congress in the world has been as effective as NTUC in improving the lives of workers. And it works because of Tripartism.


Without strong tripartism, Singapore would relive the days where hardships and inconvenience were once caused by strikes and other industrial actions. Mr Jeffrey Law shared in his letter that he had to skip school because public transport was disrupted and vehicles were set ablaze while public property were damaged.

Eventually, the confrontational way of labour-management relations saw a sorry state of affairs where unemployment was high.


The new tripartite leaders have spoke on the need for a strong tripartite relationship. If Singapore has thrived over the last 50 years because of the labour-management relations brought about by tripartism, then in order for Singapore to thrive another 50 years, the tripartism must be strengthened.

Around the world, Labour Day celebrates workers and labourers. But in Singapore, we celebrate Tripartism which has contributed to the livelihood of our workers.





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