The Power of Networks

A banking chief. A Human Resources Association’s head. A director of a multinational fast food chain. A VP of an engineering association.

 

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What are all these characters doing at trade union conferences? Aren’t trade unions supposed to be the enemies of the worker? Are we selling out to the enemy or have we ended up collaborating with them?

Well yes, if your trade union strategy is stuck in the 20th century absolutely. Wall yourself in and lock yourself in ideological isolation.
What did the representatives of employers share? What is NTUC trying to achieve here by bringing in these business leaders?

In a word – your personal success.

Direct interaction with business chiefs of diverse industries will promote better understanding of what their concerns are and how you can use those to your professional advantage. These sessions are designed to promote career development and expand networks.

Many of the talks were focused on personal leadership such as character development, creativity, resilience and values and the core target audience: the PMEs across all industries and sectors of Singapore will benefit immensely from the sessions.

Recently, the trade union conglomerate organised a U Disruptive Series that kept union members up to speed with the latest developments of the changing labour landscape. Speaking at the event is Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings, with suggestions on coping with disruptions in the economy, leadership in the technological age and thoughts on personal development issues such as trying new projects, creativity and management by inspiration.

It is through network expansion such as what NTUC is doing, that the trade unions are better able to negotiate and bargain for better terms for their workers. When a Singaporean trade union speaks with the employer, the employer knows that whatever that is coming out of the mouth of the unionists are current and relevant. They know what is at stake and what the economic reality is. There is no bargaining for bargaining’s sakes.

Today, the union network reaches into professional organisations such as those for engineers, accountants, human resources experts and even the legal industry. There is practical value for them in associating with the trade unions.

Tripartism was the first step towards industrial peace. Today the next leap would be multi-partism.

How is it that tripartism in Singapore has been so obviously successful, and yet in other parts of the world, as we have heard, it has been challenged? Indeed in some parts of the world, I believe that tripartism rather than being welcomed as a valuable instrument of policy making, is seen as something like a conspiracy against good decision-making”, said Guy Rider, Director General of the International Labour Organisation.

The Singaporean trade union system is an anomaly. Without its unique political history, without the unique governing system and without the co-operation of the people and the will to build a stable, peaceful and harmonious environment where everyone can benefit, it would be quite difficult to achieve what we have achieved.

Like Hobbesian Social Contract, we may have placed limits on some of our powers, but in return we get full employment, rising salaries, a tight labour market and room for both employers to grow profits and employees to land interesting, meaningful, well paying jobs.

 

 

About the author

Benjamin Chiang

Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He writes also at www.rangosteen.com and occasionally on Yahoo!

The views expressed are his own.

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