Trade Unions in Singapore

Topics: Trade union, National trade union center, Industrial unionism Pages: 7 (2137 words) Published: September 19, 2010
Trade union is a labor union of craftspeople or workers in related crafts, as distinguished from general workers or a union including all workers in an industry (Dictionary.com 2010). It is a de facto of the government, and they as often act as government representatives to workers’ trade union. It compromises those who are not part of the elite society. (Michael D. Barr, 2000, page 480). In this essay, I will first discuss the characteristics of trade union in Singapore which will include a brief history. I will also give my opinion of Michael D. Barr’s article if Singapore is a trade union. Secondly, I will continue my writing with the characteristic of trade union in China including a brief history, and my opinion of Taylor and Qi Li’s articles if china is a trade union. Lastly, I will conclude the essay by comparing and contrasting these two trade unions.

Trade Union in Singapore

In 1961, the non-communist party National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), being the sole union movement in Singapore, was formed. As NTUC and People’s Action Party (PAP) (government) shares common goals, it worked closely with the PAP, forming a system, the tripartite system which was well established. This is a system whereby PAP government, employers and employees work together for the benefit of all parties (Michael D. Barr, 2000, page 480). NTUC as the National Federation of trade unions made up of working people in the industrial, service and public sectors consisting of 60 affiliated unions and 6 taxi associations. Today, the NTUC has 540,000 members. 9 cooperatives and 6 related organizations that are founded to serve the needs of its members.

After reading the article (Trade Unions in an Elitist Society: The Singapore Society), I agree with the journalist, Michael D. Barr’s opinion that Singapore is not a trade union.

Firstly, in accordance to the definition stated, trade union comprise of those who are not in the elite group. However, some of the NTUC union leaders are members of the government. For instance, the current Secretary General of the NTUC is a also a PAP member of Parliament, a Minister without portfolio working in the Prime Minister office, and the chairman or deputy chairman of several government bodies (Singapore Government Directory, 2000)’.

Secondly, Secretary General of NTUC’s senior official, Lim Chee Onn, proclaimed that both the PAP and NTUC “came from the same mother --- the struggles with the communist and the colonists” (The Sunday Times, 1982). Although he claimed that the NTUC and the government had common goals, the NTUC is just like a “vehicle of government policy”. Barr’s article also pointed out that in the 1960s the NTUC was formed ‘so that’ the government was able to fight against with the communist parties to maintain a democratic society (non- communist) in Singapore.

Thirdly, Trade Union leaders are appointed by union members, but NTUC was being controlled by the government. In 1982, with 91 percent of union votes, Lim Chee Onn was re-elected as Secretary General. But after 11 month of re-election, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew wrote a letter to him. This was an inform letter, that Lim would have to leave the NTUC and take charge of a Government Ministry and other member, Ong Teng Cheong, a member of parliament (MP) would take over his position as Secretary General (NTUC). This shows that the NTUC was being control by the government to appoint the members to be in its organizational structure. The government has an authority to reject or accept members to lead the Trade Union. In addition, at the time of appointment as Secretary General in NTUC, Ong Teng Cheong was already a chairman of the PAP, and a former minister of Ministry of labor in the government sector.

Fourthly, many important decisions are being made by the government. One of the most significant events is the industrial relations event in the 1970s. Lee Kuan Yew took up the decision to modernize the trade...

References: • Caraway, Journal of East Asian Studies [1598-2408], Labor rights in East Asia: Progress or regress? , Vol: 9 Issue:2 pg: 153 -186, 2009 United States
• Feng Chen, ‘Union Power in China Source, Operation, and Constraints’, Modern China, 2009 pg 664
• Taylor, B & Qi Li, 2007, ‘Is the ACFTU a union and does it matter?’, Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 49, no. 5, pp. 701-15.
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