NEWS

Singapore Best Model, Says Former Minister

A former government minister has called on Government, trade unions and employers to use the Singaporean model if they want peaceful industrial relations. Vincent Lobendahn, a minister in Sitiveni Rabuka’s
07 Jun 2015 11:00
Singapore Best Model, Says Former Minister
Vincent Lobendhan.

A former government minister has called on Government, trade unions and employers to use the Singaporean model if they want peaceful industrial relations.

Vincent Lobendahn, a minister in Sitiveni Rabuka’s SVT Government, led a team that studied the model in Singapore in 1998. The team included Hector Hatch (employers’ representative) and unionists James Raman and Daniel Urai.

“I was impressed with it. I came back and mentioned it to Mr Rabuka. He said ‘prepare a Cabinet paper’,” Mr Lobendahn said.

“In January, 1999, I submitted the Cabinet paper.”

He said he recommended the establishment of a new tripartite framework, based on the Singaporean model.

“Cabinet approved it in March, 1999. We lost the general election in May. We were told to shred all the documents because a new government was coming in,” he said.

The main features of the new tripartite framework were:

– Establishment of a formal document committing the Government, trade unions and the employers. The roles and functions of the social partners were clearly outlined. During his reign, Alliance Government Prime Minister, the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, tried the concept but it failed on several fronts because there was no formal binding agreement/document. It was a loose arrangement. As a result, Ratu Sir Kamisese’s term was marked by one of the most turbulent times in Fiji’s industrial relations history. Strikes and industrial unrest culminated in the formation of a workers’ political party, the Fiji Labour Party;

– A productivity code to be part of the document. It commits all parties to ensure that the country is moving forward economically;

– An annual adjustment of real wages to ensure that workers do not lose out in terms of inflation. This keeps the workers and the unions happy and lowers the risks of damaging strikes; and

– Formation of a National Wages Council on a tripartite basis.

Mr Lobendahn is still convinced that the Singapore model is the best solution for Fijian labour challenges.

“Look at Singapore. It’s a great example,” he said.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Attorney-General and Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum also like Singapore’s economic model.

After the strike by Telecom workers, Mr Lobendahn, was appointed by Mr Rabuka as State Minister for Telecommunications. He was also executive director of the Fiji Nurses Association and administrative secretary of the Fiji Public Service Association.

nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 




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