ILO Study Mission on Singapore’s Tripartism Framework: Prospects for Ratification of the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144) - [Singapore, 18 to 22 January 2010]

International Labour Standards Department (NORMES) - Industrial and Employment Relations Department (DIALOGUE)

News | 14 June 2010

At the request of the Government of Singapore, the International Labour Standards Department (NORMES) and the Industrial and Employment Relations Department (DIALOGUE) of the International Labour Office (ILO) jointly undertook a five-day Study visit on Tripartism in Singapore. The mission was led by Ms. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the International Labour Standards Department (NORMES), and Mr. Tayo Fashoyin, Director of the Industrial and Employment Relations Department (DIALOGUE), accompanied by Mr. Natan Elkin, Coordinator (Employment Policies and Tripartite Consultation, NORMES), and Ms. Minawa Ebisui, Social Dialogue Technical Officer, DIALOGUE).

The study visit had two main objectives. First, it sought to understand how tripartite social dialogue is used to address industrial relations and employment relations as well as the broader issues of socio-economic development. The second objective was to examine the prospects for Singapore to ratify the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144).

The mission met with the Ministry of Manpower, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, the National Trades Union Congress, the Singapore National Employers Federation and a range of institutions in the country. In the course of the study visit, the team had an opportunity to see various tripartite procedures and mechanisms functioning effectively in both formal and informal ways to address a wide range of issues including finding quick solutions to the downturn. The Government and the social partners have effectively managed to save jobs and sustain enterprises. The Tripartite Taskforce on Managing Economic Downturn formulated the Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower and played a major role in helping to develop and refine the Skills Programme for Upgrading and Resilience (SPUR). The Taskforce also established TRUST Teams (Tripartite Upturn Strategy Teams) to provide customized assistance to companies in implementing the guidelines. These measures, which formed part of the Government's Resilience Package, have indeed given effect to the ILO's Global Jobs Pact.

Twenty international labour Conventions are in force for Singapore; most of them were ratified in October 1965 and were effective under its previous status of non-metropolitan territory of the United Kingdom and remained applicable to the country when it became a Member of the International Labour Organization in 1965. Three fundamental Conventions, the Conventions on child labour and equal remuneration, were ratified between 2001 and 2005.

The mission discussed the prospects for ratifying Convention No. 144, as well as other relevant international labour Conventions, specifically the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), the Human Resources Development Convention, 1975 (No. 142), and the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. The mission concluded with a tripartite meeting at which preliminary conclusions were drawn.

This report has been organized based on the information and extensive documentation provided in a series of intensive meetings with the tripartite partners, businesses and a number of other institutions, and is structured in four parts. Part A gives a thematic analysis of tripartism in Singapore in terms of how it functions, including some concrete examples of its operation. Part B examines how tripartism enabled both the tripartite partners and bipartite actors to find solutions and respond quickly to the global financial crisis. Part C provides a summary of the closing meeting of the visit, in which the tripartite partners and the mission team shared views on the functioning of tripartism in Singapore as well as the prospects of ratifying Convention No. 144. Part D contains some concluding remarks. The full schedule of meetings and the list of those whom the mission met are attached as Annexes I and II.