Wednesday 29 April 2015

Lim Swee Say: Singapore 'must act to avoid regressing'

Republic risks becoming ordinary if it fails to boost jobs, skills: Swee Say
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 28 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE risks regressing to become "just a normal country" unless it moves faster to enhance workers' skills and create new jobs, labour chief Lim Swee Say said yesterday.

The country should also venture ahead of its competitors in weaving technology into manufacturing, services and daily life, said Mr Lim in his final May Day message as secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

Failing to improve on the skill and job fronts in tandem may lead to shortages of both, and a mismatch between those available, he said. This may in turn lead to a rise in unemployment, structural unemployment and underemployment.

"We could then regress and become just a normal country with an ordinary economy and ordinary workforce. This will be painful," he warned.

Singapore, which has been praised for its exceptional economic performance over the past few decades, should take the lead in areas like future manufacturing using robots, future services where customers are more involved, and being a smart nation where technology is more integrated, he added.

Mr Lim, who will move from NTUC to be Manpower Minister next week, also paid tribute to the pioneer generation, and all workers and tripartite partners, for contributions to Singapore's transformation over the last 50 years.

They have helped secure the economic conditions that workers here enjoy, he said. These are a tight labour market with enough jobs for workers of various ages, fair wage increases and bonuses, a higher re-employment age ceiling and industrial peace.

In her May Day message, NTUC president Diana Chia highlighted the role of union leaders over the years, from standing up to errant employers in the 1960s to accepting the flexible wage system in the 1980s, which raised Singapore's competitiveness.

She added that the three-way partnership between the unions, the Government and employers needs to be brought to the sectoral level as well. "Government agencies work with employer groups and trade unions in each sector to chart out strategies that will deliver productivity and skills breakthroughs so that Singapore and Singaporeans can continue to prosper," she said.

The labour movement is celebrating May Day this year with the theme, "Together As One, Brighter Future For All", and has lined up a series of activities to mark the occasion.

At its annual May Day dinner at Orchid Country Club tomorrow night, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will present awards to 96 individuals and companies.

On Friday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will speak at the May Day Rally at The Star Performing Arts Centre.

In the evening, the Migrant Workers' Centre is organising celebrations for some 15,000 foreign workers at four recreation centres across Singapore. NTUC's three-day fiesta to mark May Day and SG50 will also be launched at Universal Studios Singapore that day.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the labor movement, I first joined the labour movement in 1996, 18 years ago. I left to...
Posted by Lim Swee Say on Sunday, May 3, 2015

Swee Say to tell foreign unions why tripartism benefits all
Outgoing labour chief to address first global tripartism conference here
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Apr 2015

FOR labour chief Lim Swee Say, the one thing that he kept focused on in his eight years on the job was growing the relationship between employers, Government and the labour movement.

And that's because as long as the relationship between the three parties remains strong, Singapore will continue to succeed in the future, he said.

That is why Mr Lim is keen to showcase the model that has worked so well for the country to the international audience through the first international conference on tripartism in October.

The conference, which will be held as part of SG50 celebrations, will explain to foreign union leaders the three-way partnership practised in Singapore and help Singaporeans understand how tripartism has contributed to the country's progress, he added.

Mr Lim, who turns 62 in July next year, is stepping down as part of a self-imposed leadership renewal plan, where union leaders voluntarily retire at age 62 to make way for new blood.

He served a three-year stint in the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) from 1996 to 1999 as deputy secretary-general before returning in 2005 and taking over the helm as labour chief two years later.

He will be appointed Manpower Minister on Monday.

During his stint as labour chief, he expanded the unions' representation of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) and implemented the progressive wage model to boost the pay of low-wage workers in the cleaning, landscaping and security sector.

He also pushed firms to redesign jobs to help workers remain employed through skills upgrading.

Mr Lim said that he leaves behind "a very strong foundation" in NTUC, where union membership is growing and unions are representing a swathe of workers including locals, foreigners, rank-and-file workers and PMEs.

He also defended the labour movement's record, saying that having strikes does not mean a union is strong.

Mr Lim recounted how a foreign union leader jibed him as the union leader representing Singapore workers who are not allowed to strike.

"I explained to him that there is a difference between not allowing (workers) to go on strike versus no need to go on strike," he said.

Mr Lim would not be drawn into sharing his plans at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday.

But he did let on the fact that he will be putting his experience as labour chief to good use.

"I intend to... make full use of my linkage with the business community, as well as with the union ground, to turn all the programmes that we have in MOM into tripartite programmes."

But despite all his achievements at NTUC, Mr Lim refuses to take personal accolades, preferring instead to insist that it was a team effort.

"In the labour movement, whatever we achieve, we achieve together."

Chan Chun Sing has 'the right qualities, his heart's in the right place'
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 28 Apr 2015

THE outgoing labour chief gave a ringing endorsement of his successor, saying that Mr Chan Chun Sing has the right qualities to be an effective link between the Government and the unions.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary- general Lim Swee Say also said Mr Chan is a hard worker who is close to the ground and has all the core attributes to be a good labour chief.

"His office is just next to mine... most of the time I don't see him in his office, he is on the ground all the time," said Mr Lim.

"He listens very well, at the same time he learns fast and thinks fast. I would say he has the core attributes that will make him an effective secretary-general."

What is also important is that Mr Chan has "his heart in the right place", said Mr Lim.

"Whether the person is groomed from within or from outside is not critical. What is critical is that firstly this person, his heart must be with the labour movement," he said in an interview yesterday.

Mr Chan joined NTUC in January and is its deputy secretary- general.

He later relinquished his appointments as Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Defence.

Besides caring for workers, the secretary-general of NTUC should also be able to work well with the Government and employers, and take the labour movement forward, said Mr Lim, adding that he believes Mr Chan fits the bill on all counts.

"I think his heart is in the right place, based on what I've seen so far. He has good standing in the Government.

"But most importantly, he's going to become a core member of (Singapore's) next generation of leaders.

"So in other words, he will also be a very important link for us into the future."

Outgoing chief does it his way, with his own words
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 28 Apr 2015

UNTIL labour chief Lim Swee Say came along, there were no words such as "betterer" and "betterest".

He has also created snappy catchphrases, like "cheaper, better, faster" and "upturn the downturn", and gamely used them in public speeches to make a point.

But while the made-up words and phrases have attracted some criticism, Mr Lim said it was done to communicate complex problems to the average worker.

"I do this not because I have fun doing this... and not to spoil the (English) language or whatever, but just to make sure that the message gets through to the workers," he said.

"I am not trying to impress anyone. I just want to make sure that my workers on the ground, my union leaders on the ground, understand the challenge at hand and the solution that we all have to pursue."

He added that he was driven to come up with slogans and simple English because of his own limitation in explaining complicated policies to people.

"Some people have the gift... No matter how complicated, they are able to explain all the details and so on. I cannot," said Mr Lim, who studied at Catholic High School and National Junior College.

The latest non-standard word coined by Mr Lim was "futurise".

Last month, the labour chief called for a push to futurise Singapore, with the people seeking out change instead of yearning for things to remain as they are. This requires workers and businesses to have a "mindset of embracing the future", he said then.

Yesterday, Mr Lim said that he has since found a better way to explain "futurisation". The idea of getting people to think about the future is so that they can prepare for it early and get there before the competition, he said.

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