#OnThisDay (1 May 1960) Labour Day
📷: 2016 May Day Rally at Downtown East
#onthisday (1 May) in 1960, Labour Day was gazetted as a public holiday.
At the inaugural May Day Rally, then-PM Lee Kuan Yew emphasised that Singapore would not compromise on the welfare of workers as we forge ahead with industrial expansion and nation-building. And that a symbiotic relationship between the unions, employers and the state, is key to Singapore’s progress. Instead of disruptive strikes or violent protests, all parties must work closely to find solutions as fellow stakeholders, not adversaries.
“Tripartism is fundamental to Singapore’s survival and success…It is not secret in a sense that people do not know about it, but it is secret in a sense that people can see it but they cannot do it,” said PM Lee Hsien Loong on May Day 2018.
Tripartism has kept Singapore going through every crisis since independence. Starting with our early years when we had to industrialise rapidly and survive the withdrawal of British troops. The oil crisis in 1970s. The major recession in 1985 when workers had to accept deep CPF cuts and reduce costs to restore our competitiveness. The Asian Financial Crisis. SARS. The Global Financial Crisis. And most recently, the Covid-19 crisis.
In his National Day Rally speech in 2021, PM Lee announced that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) guidelines would be put into law, and the government would set up a tribunal to deal with workplace discrimination. And in Budget 2022, we improved safeguards for workers and support for businesses. Tripartism seeks to balance the needs of businesses, workers, and the government, and is a perpetual work in progress. It is how we keep our economy going, our businesses profitable and our most important natural resource — our workers — protected.
Happy May Day everyone!