The Awkward Role of Union in Singapore Politics

Editor’s Notes: I like to paraphrase the famous LKY’s quote: “I make no apologies that the NTUC(PAP) is the Government and the Government is the NTUC(PAP).” Kudos to The Straits Times for daring to publish this comment, I hope no one will be fired because of this letter.

*NTUC=National Trade Union Congress (some Singaporeans say it stands for Never Trust Union Chief)

Explain role of NTUC in politics

Source: The Straits Times  Mar 9, 2011

I AM curious about the role of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in politics. In recent announcements of potential candidates for the People’s Action Party (PAP), I read that civil servants resigned their posts to join the NTUC.

The switch was aimed ostensibly at preparing these former civil servants to stand as PAP candidates in the upcoming general election.

I understand why civil servants cannot be Members of Parliament, but I have several questions:

  • How is NTUC able to absorb these people? In any corporation, positions are based on needs. Were the positions specially created for these candidates?
  • Why is NTUC providing candidates only for the PAP? Can senior executives of NTUC stand as opposition candidates? Can one be part of the NTUC leadership and remain an opposition party member? Can we separate these jobs from politics?
  • Do MPs who work for NTUC take directions from NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say, who is Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, in Parliament?
  • Finally, how many MPs should come from the NTUC? While I acknowledge that the voices of the union members should be heard, I am less certain about the number who should represent the congress in the House.

In fact, it may well be unhealthy for Parliament to be overwhelmed by unionists. My perception is that there are too many MPs from NTUC in Parliament now and there may well be even more.

Ang Miah Boon


Exerpt from “Why NTUC works closely with PAP“:

“How many labour MPs we have depends on the quality of NTUC candidates. Labour MPs undergo the same stringent selection process as other PAP candidates. As NTUC nurtures promising candidates for selection by PAP, we also recruit potential PAP candidates who can contribute to the labour movement. Such a two-way approach has served our workers and union members well.” – John De Payva and Lim Swee Say (Source)

Editor’s Notes: The two “NTUC leaders” really have trouble explaining their close association with PAP, NTUC should be working whoever is the Government rather than an extension of PAP where the PAP can get people in and out of the union as if this is their Youth Wing or something. If this ain’t Dirty Politics, I don’t know know what is!

About NTUC’s reply – ‘A pertinent question on job creation remains unanswered.’

source: The Straits Times 26 Mar 2011

MS FAYE CHIAM: ‘I refer to the National Trades Union Congress’ official reply (‘Why NTUC works closely with PAP’; March 15) to Mr Ang Miah Boon’s letter (‘Explain role of NTUC in politics’; March 9). A pertinent question on job creation remains unanswered. The NTUC receives a portion of the union membership fee that its more than 570,000 members pay every month. Presumably, some of these proceeds go towards covering the cost of its operations, including the salaries of its employees. Does NTUC have to create positions to accommodate persons from the civil service who are about to stand for the general election?