Unions in most (if not all) countries are usually confrontational and disruptive in the eyes of most businesses and governments.
What with strikes and industrial actions to be a voice for workers. While it hardly gets the desired results of achieving a better outcome for workers, the by-effect of unionism is the emergence of networks and a grassroots movement, albeit at the cost of union-management relations.
This is exactly why, in most countries, the union is frowned upon and kept out of organisations.
But, in Singapore, this is not the case.
Unions, while helping to build the social resilience of workers, also work hand in hand with management partners and the government to create a better working environment for workers. This Tripartite (Unions, Government, Employers) relations is rather unique to the Singapore labour movement.
Granted, there are many critics who say that Singapore’s unions are toothless. But that is really not seeing the full picture of things. Unlike unions of other countries, Singapore’s unions believe more in the power of dialogue and moral suasion and working together with stakeholders to achieve a better outcome for all parties – workers, employers and government.
It is also because of such a peaceful way of working that Singapore has constantly been able to attract foreign investors and Multi-National Corporations to set up bases here in Singapore and provide jobs for Singaporeans.
The Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said at the International Forum on Tripartism in 2015 that Singapore has the proof of how its tripartism works:
“We all judge tripartism by the basis of the results that it generates, and in Singapore I think you have the proof of the effectiveness of your tripartism, the results are there for everybody to see in terms of economic growth, in terms of employment, in terms of improved living conditions.”
So, yes, while unions can be disruptive to most nations around the world because of the strategies they employ in helping to be the voice for workers, Singapore’s union be definitely not a bane for social resilience because of the work of tripartism.