Did you know Labour Day (AKA May Day) is older than National Day?
Photo: 2016 May Day Rally at Downtown East
It was first gazetted as a public holiday in 1960, five years before Singapore became independent, as a paid day of rest to honour workers.
At the inaugural May Day Rally, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew announced that the welfare of workers would not be compromised when forging ahead with industrial expansion and nation-building. He also emphasised a symbiotic relationship between the unions, employers, and the state was imperative for Singapore’s progress.
This describes the essence of tripartism, a key factor of Singapore’s economic competitiveness. Instead of disruptive strikes or violent protests, labour leaders, businesses, and the government work closely to find solutions as fellow stakeholders, not adversaries.
This May Day is a good day to reflect on this relationship, which has seen us through many crises: the withdrawal of British troops that threatened jobs, the 1970s oil crisis, the major recession in 1985 when workers took deep CPF cuts, the Asian Financial Crisis, SARS, and the Global Financial Crisis. The tripartite partnership, forged over the decades, is our way of balancing prosperity with protection of our workers, so that no one is left behind.
Every worker matters as we weather the fallout of COVID-19.