Ex-labour chief continues to do labour chief stuff in new role as Minister of Manpower

New Minister of Manpower Lim Swee Say has described his transition from NTUC secretary-general to working in the government in the manpower sector as being “seamless”. He has been in the MOM in for a month.

Apparently, it’s like he never left the union.

In an interview, he displayed 4 reasons why he is still doing essentially the same thing he did at NTUC, but as the Minister of Manpower:

1. Protecting workers’ rights — Singaporeans’ rights, to be exact

Minister Lim has strong opinions about relaxing the current foreign worker quotas in place, as the thought is that Singaporeans will eventually become a minority in the workforce.

“If we continue to do so, the ratio of local workers versus foreign manpower will continue to decline…One day Singaporeans will wake up to find ourselves as a minority in our Singapore workforce, and obviously that’s not sustainable, that’s not desirable”


2. Both MOM and NTUC deal with workers



Before leaving his post as labour chief, he emphasised the need for workers to pick up skills for the future and for businesses to transform and reduce manpower.

Now he’s in the Ministry of Manpower and is able to do both.

The difference is that instead of suggesting policies to the Government via NTUC, he can now simply implement them himself.

3. He continues to talk about tripartism



If the word “tripartism” sounds familiar, it’s because NTUC has been linked to the Government since 1959 and since then, the trade union has been working together with the Government and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), which protects employers’ rights.

During his time as labour movement chief, he emphasized the need for Singapore’s tripartism — repeatedly.

The current secretary-general of NTUC, Chan Chun Sing, has referred to Lim as the “embodiment of tripartism”.

In a recent interview at the MOM HQ, Lim called on employers to work together with the Government and labour movement and look beyond the tight labour market.

Business as usual for the Minister.

4. He thinks people should work at jobs befitting their qualifications

Minister Lim wants the services and manufacturing industries to cut back on their manpower requirements as the labour crunch could result in professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) working in these industries that do not fit their potential.

“Failing to cut back on manpower needs in these sectors could result in highly-qualified professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) having to settle for jobs that are below their full potential and these workers would end up being underemployed”


In other words, PMEs need to be compensated fairly for the qualifications they have. No word was given about workers with qualifications obtained from degree mills though; a sore point for Singaporeans over the past few months.

Tripartism is well and alive, whether as labour chief or Minister of Manpower

Lim Swee Say probably mumbles about tripartism in his sleep at night. Say what you want about the man, but his dedication to keeping relations between the government, employers, and employees is well and alive, despite a change in roles.

NTUC and SNEF will continue to work with the government and everyone will live happily ever after. Or so they say.



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Featured image via Lim Swee Say
With references from The Straits Times, TODAY Online, Channel NewsAsia