Monday, August 13, 2012

National Trades Union Congress – Singapore 1.5.1986

Singapore’s achievement’s in economic and industrial progress have been attributed in no small measure to the growth and development of a productive labour workforce, galvanized together through the difficulties of the early years of nation building in the 1950’s, by a leadership determined to set the pace and environment for industrial peace. This is very well depicted by the four stamp miniature sheet affixed to the First Day Cover and postmarked on the auspicious Labour Day namely, 1st May 1986.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), also known as the Singapore National Trades Union Congress (SNTUC), is the sole national trade union centre in Singapore. It currently has 61 affiliated trade unions and 1 affiliated taxi association. Trade unions in Singapore are run along democratic lines, and membership is voluntary. Major decisions on industrial actions are taken only with majority support expressed through secret ballot. There are three tiers of union leadership, all elected via secret ballot. Workers in a company elect their branch leaders. The next layer is the executive committee of a union. Officials from the executive committee are drawn from the branches. At the national level, there is the Central Committee of the NTUC. The 21-member Central Committee is elected every four years.
Union leaders and employers serve on key institutions such as the National Wages Council, the Economic Development Board, the Central Provident Fund and the Singapore Productivity and Standards Board. Government and employer representatives also serve on the boards of the cooperatives, business ventures and other organizations controlled by NTUC. NTUC was created in 1961 when the Singapore Trades Union Congress (STUC), which had backed the People's Action Party (PAP) in its successful drive for self-government, split into the pro-PAP NTUC and the leftist Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU). The SATU collapsed in 1963 following the government's detention of its leaders during Operation Coldstore and its subsequent official deregistration on 13 November 1963, leaving NTUC as the sole trade union centre. Presently, over 98% of union members are in unions affiliated with the NTUC. After the PAP's decisive electoral victory in 1968, the government passed the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act of 1968, which severely limited workers' rights to strike. From 1969, the NTUC adopted, in its own words, "a cooperative, rather than a confrontational policy towards employers." And, that I am sure is one of the secrets of Singapore’s success.
Relations between PAP and NTUC are very close, and have often resulted in members holding office in both organizations at the same time. The NTUC's founder, Devan Nair, was a PAP stalwart and later served as President of Singapore. Ong Teng Cheong, the first directly elected President of Singapore, was both the NTUC secretary general, and the Deputy Prime Minister (from 1985), until his presidential election. Lim Boon Heng, the previous secretary general, is also a Member of Parliament, and the Chairman of the People's Action Party. As of January 5, 2007, Lim Swee Say, the deputy Secretary General, has replaced Lim Boon Heng. 

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