SINGAPORE (Nov 30): David Gerald, president and CEO of the Securities Investors Association (Singapore), or SIAS, was a legal officer in the Ministry of Manpower between 1974 and 1977, at a time when union strife was still a concern.
“In the 1950s and 1960s, [workers were on the] streets, burning buses,” Gerald says. “What the government decided was, we are not going to have this Western style [activism]; we are going to have it Singapore style. Let’s all sit down, drink tea and discuss issues like decent human beings. Let’s come up with a win-win solution.”
The result was the “tripartism” that Singapore held out as being one of its competitive advantages in attracting foreign investment. “The unions needed to ensure [reasonable] conditions of service. [But] the investors who came to do business here, build factories here and create employment here, cannot be allowed to be bullied by a strong union,” Gerald explains.