The very ground that we now sit on, was but a sea 50 years ago: Chan Chun Sing

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The feisty chief of the NTUC said this at a National Day Opening Ceremony last Saturday evening to a bunch of union members, leaders and their families.

The entire Marina Bay area was literally a piece of ocean before land reclamation works started and Chan was reminding the audience of the miracles that could happen when a people rallied together to achieve a common goal.

As unions, government and employers bickered throughout the world, each trying to flex muscle and ego, Singapore was busy getting itself organised.


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(Union members and leaders pledging their allegiance to tripartism)

The labour chief cited overseas examples of how foreign unionists could not build up a strong tripartite culture because of the lack of trust and continuity in government and policies.

“It is through co-operation and not confrontation that lead to our success”, said Chan. This co-operation is known to us as “tripartism”.

And it is tripartism that is Singapore’s “significant advantage” to excel.


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“The collaboration among unions, employers and the Government is strong today, Singaporeans must not take it for granted”, continued the Secretary General.


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(Union members and leaders pledging their allegiance to tripartism)

As I stood there listening to his message, I thought about why some who claim to be labour experts continue to advocate and adversarial system. How on earth was there going to be any progress when political parties are squabbling in Parliament, refusing to work with each other… when unions come to clashes with employers for every little problem.

A system where there is no trust, where everyone has their agenda and where the goal is not a common one to improve the lives of all…is a system that just could not work.


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(Union members and leaders pledging their allegiance to tripartism)

Singapore is celebrating 50 years of independence. It is not just lip service independence – where a country still has to depend on foreign aid to survive, but real economic independence where Singaporeans build a successful country to rival some of the world’s finest.

This did not happen by adopting an adversarial system.

We are proud of our economic miracle today, but we cannot take it for granted.

The best way to continue our success is to address workers’ interests. Build and sustain a successful economy, together with the steady creation of good jobs and good pay, and that is achieved through the strong collaboration between the union, the private and public sectors.


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In this new Singapore, our country simply cannot compete by lowering prices or increasing manpower to expand the economy.

Chan elaborated that we must compete on the quality of our products and services, innovation and the trust people have in the “Singapore Brand”.


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“In many countries, low-skilled jobs are being replaced by technology and other newly created high-skilled jobs. We must find new ways to improve our workers’ capabilities so that they can take on these higher-skilled jobs and continue to enjoy real wage growth,” he said.

And with these strong reminders and observations, the Jubilee celebrations was kicked off.


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(Union leaders, directors and MPs listening to the Secretary General)

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