SINGAPORE – Treating workers fairly is the cornerstone of the partnership between employers, unions and the Government, said veteran businessman Bob Tan on Thursday (May 19).
Mr Tan, who is chairman of several firms, including Ascott Business Trust Management, Sentosa Development Corporation and SBS Transit, has also been a leading light in the trade union movement for many years.
Indeed, it was his contributions to the labour union in the NTUC Club management council that earned him the top honour at the NTUC May Day Awards held at Fairmont Singapore on Thursday.
Mr Tan has been involved with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) for nearly 30 years and helped to develop recreational facilities for its members, such as Downtown East and Wild Wild Wet. He was also vice-president of the Singapore National Employers Federation for about 15 years.
Awards were conferred on 12 people and four organisations, including Ministry of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Pang Kin Keong; the late Richard Magnus, who was given a posthumous award for his work as former chairman of the Public Transport Council; DBS Bank and Changi Airport Group.
NTUC president Mary Liew said at the ceremony: “Throughout the pandemic, the labour movement and our tripartite partners have worked hard together in solidarity to help our companies, keep our workplaces safe and cushion the impact of Covid-19 on our working people.
“We can and should be proud of the work that we have done to advance the cause of workers in the areas of wages, welfare and work prospects.”
Mr Tan told the media that workers should always be the focus of the tripartite partnership between firms, unions and the Government: “In the early days, it was just a matter of representing employers (for me), but then over time I realised that the cornerstone of tripartism is really the workers.
“If you don’t have committed workers, you don’t have a business… If your business depends on exploiting workers and paying them less than the market pay, it is not sustainable.”
He added that when times are tough and pay freezes or cuts are inevitable, workers will also respond to fair employers by accepting the situation and helping the business environment to rebound.
“It’s not something that we can take for granted because new generations of employers keep coming up. I think this is where the tripartite institutions can help employers to really think about how can they be fair, that they should pay competitively and look at how they can increase the productivity of the workers.”
When asked about the manpower crunch that businesses are facing, Mr Tan said productivity means that employers can have fewer workers while paying them more.