It’s Labour Day!
While most of us rejoice because it’s a public holiday for us to rest and relax, did you know that typically on this day, Singapore’s Labour Movement will have its annual May Day Rally?
The highlights of the May Day Rally were the speeches made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Labour Chief Ng Chee Meng, and the new leader-in-waiting, Minister Lawrence Wong.
Here are the 10 key takeaways from the May Day Rally speeches this year that you need to know, as a worker in Singapore.
It’s a peaceful rally, no fights, no protest of anything of that sort
Unlike other countries around the world where protests surged in cities with demonstrators calling for better working protections and other causes, here in Singapore, we celebrate May Day very differently.
This year’s May Day Rally saw about 900 union leaders, key representatives from the Labour Movement, and tripartite partners gathering together at the D’Marquee in Downtown East to celebrate the workers’ hard work, tenacity, and resilience in their invaluable contributions to our economy and society.
The rally is also a platform for the Labour Movement leaders and tripartite partners to reaffirm their collective resolve to champion and protect the interests of the workers in Singapore.
There’s going to be a Youth Task Force, dedicated for the Youths
“Today’s youth is the future of tomorrow,” they say.
So, to better serve the new generation of young workers entering the workforce, NTUC will be setting up a Youth Task Force, said labour chief Ng Chee Meng when delivering his May Day Rally speech.
This new task force, spearheaded by Young NTUC, will serve as a safe space for the young to share their needs and pain points. It will allow the NTUC to engage the young and gain a deeper insight into their work-life needs, and it will also allow NTUC to create value in this space to give better support to the graduating youths, as well as the young workers.
“Beyond the good work that Young NTUC has done, we want to dive deeper to understand young workers better, across workers of all collars, and co-create programs that matter to the youth,” said the labour chief.
NTUC will double its efforts to upskill workers
Amidst all the uncertainties, inflation, the rising cost of living, and whatnot, the NTUC labour chief is convinced that the efforts to upskill workers must intensify further because he believes that upskilling is the key to earning a good wage, and having better work prospects is the most sustainable way to deal with the rising cost of living.
To achieve that, Ng Chee Meng said that NTUC will be tapping on to the $100M grant announced in Budget 2022 to scale up efforts to help companies implement concrete training and transformation programmes that would lead to a better worker and business outcomes.
For the workers, better work prospects, which then brings them better wages in return. And for the business, enhanced productivity and innovation.
Labour Movement needs to refresh its compact with a new generation of workers
With the changing demographics and a more diverse workforce, the NTUC labour chief said that the Labour Movement will also need to refresh its compact with a new generation of workers.
“This hard-earned trust that we have built cannot be taken for granted,” he added.
“NTUC must innovate with concrete plans, co-create and co-solve. Beyond consensus building with our tripartite partners, we must recalibrate our advocacy and representation to support a greater diversity of workforce segments.”
He also called upon the social enterprises to continue to stay versatile and competitive, so as to serve the needs of the working class.
Current events in the world… that our Sunny Island isn’t spared from, unfortunately
For those not in the know, it is a custom for our Prime Minister to deliver his speech at the May Day Rally, and this year is no exception.
PM Lee kicked off his speech commending the Labour Movement and NTUC for playing an important role in supporting workers through COVID-19 and hence enabling Singapore to keep unemployment rates relatively low.
However, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the outlook has clouded, and the risks have grown considerably, PM Lee added. Speaking at length about the Russia-Ukraine conflict, PM Lee noted that the impact of the war has resulted in a worldwide energy crunch causing electricity and petrol prices to increase sharply.
Food prices have gone up too, he added.
Despite the rising inflation and cost of living, PM Lee assures Singaporeans that the Government is doing all it can to cushion the impact on Singaporeans and alleviate the cost-of-living pressures.
New PM-in-waiting Minister Lawrence Wong was there (OMG fangirl moment)
Yes! Finance Minister Lawrence Wong also gave his speech at the May Day Rally!
Speaking in his capacity as the new leader of the 4G team, Lawrence Wong gave his word that together with his 4G team, he will continue to strengthen the tripartite partnership, comprising representatives from the employers, unions, and government.
Lawrence Wong also added that he will continue to support the good work by NTUC, such as uplifting the low-wage workers, as well as scaling up the company training committees (CTCs) so as to benefit more workers and companies.
He said: “I give you my word, whatever lies ahead, I will give every ounce of my strength to this movement, together with my comrades in the 4G team”.
“We will do whatever it takes to strengthen the PAP-NTUC symbiotic relationship and our tripartite partnership, to keep Singapore special, and build a better Singapore in SG75.”
“In short, we aim to develop a “Forward Singapore” agenda that will set out the roadmap ahead for the next decade and beyond,” added Lawrence Wong.
Tripartism is the way to go
Reiterating that the tripartite partnership is the key competitive advantage for Singapore and also our uniquely Singaporean way of conducting labour relations, PM Lee urged the tripartite partners to continue to strengthen their unity and cohesion.
NTUC labour chief Ng Chee Meng said that tripartism has allowed Singapore to be nimble and responsive amidst challenges. Adding that the trust amongst the partners must continue to remain relevant, he said that NTUC will continue to do its best to uphold tripartism and take concrete actions to secure win-win for Singapore, workers, and employers.
Minister Lawrence Wong, who just came back from his recent work trip to the US, too, said the trip reminded him of how precious and unique the tripartite partnership is. Together, members of the tripartite partnership became the co-drivers of Singapore’s development and this distinctive model of tripartism will remain the cornerstone of the Singapore Way.
Think of it like passing the baton and now PM Lee is going to pass his baton to his successor, Minister Lawrence Wong.
Passing the leadership over to Lawrence Wong also means that the deep bonds of trust that are forged through successive crises must also be continually reaffirmed and carefully stewarded from one generation to the leaders of the next generation.
As such, PM Lee urged for the Labour Movement to give the new leader of the 4G team the fullest support and continue to work with him, citing that this leadership renewal is crucial to maintaining a stable tripartism for Singapore.
There’s a theme song that will be sung at every May Day Rally!
At the end of every May Day Rally, attendees will stand up and sing in solidarity to the popular trade union anthem… “SOLIDARITY FOREVER”. If you’re a football fan, and a Manchester United fan, the tune will be very familiar!
Did you know the song “Solidarity Forever” is 107 years old this year? It was written by Ralph Chaplin who was an American writer, artist, and labour activist.
Here’s what the theme song sounds like:
Everyone came to the rally in either red or white
Nope, it’s not National Day yet, but everyone came to the rally clad in either red or white. Apparently, the colour red in NTUC stands for International Brotherhood of Workers, while the colour white symbolises Purity, Honesty, and Integrity of the Labour Movement.
It is also not uncommon to see men in white (literally!) at the rally because of the symbiotic relationship between the NTUC and the People’s Action Party (PAP) that dates back to the 1960s.
This relationship had allowed the union to influence pro-worker policies and legislations that would impact workers positively, hence improving the lives and livelihoods of workers.
Editing is my work.