Tharman Shanmugaratnam will resign from the People’s Action Party and step down as Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies on 7 July 2023.
Additional reporting by Nicolette Yeo
The Labour Movement wholeheartedly supports Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s intention to stand in the upcoming Presidential Election 2023, said NTUC in a statement on 8 June 2023.
The statement was signed by NTUC President Mary Liew and NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng.
“Brother Tharman takes a keen interest in ensuring workers benefit from economic transformation. Brother Tharman’s extensive contributions to the Labour Movement encompass various workforce needs,” said NTUC.
NTUC’s statement came after Mr Tharman’s letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the same day regarding his intention to put himself as a presidential candidate and his wish to retire from politics and all Government positions.
He will resign from the People’s Action Party and step down as Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies on 7 July 2023.
Mr Tharman has been the chairman of the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute (OTCi) Board of Governors since 2002.
He has supported doubling training placement for union leaders, management representatives and government officers at OTCi and introduced more flexible and accessible learning methods.
The institute also expanded its focus beyond industrial relations to a broader range of courses to meet the needs of union leaders in tandem with changing economic trends and conditions.
“Through it all, Brother Tharman believes that union leaders play an important role in helping enterprises grow and uplifting workers’ livelihoods,” said NTUC.
In a Facebook post, Mr Ng said: “Brother Tharman is a longtime friend of NTUC and our union leaders. His incredible vision and wisdom, coupled with a certain unassuming sense of warmth and humility, has benefitted union leaders and workers far and wide in the past few decades.”
In a separate Facebook post, NTUC Vice President Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab added: “He strongly supported leaders across unions, companies and Government agencies to invest in training and introduced new ways to learn. He held to his belief that leaders should walk the talk and be role models for workers and their employees."
OTCi Director Jessie Yeo added: “I was humbled by his deep concern for training of union leaders and how the institute could have more training not just for union leaders, but also industrial relations officers as well as management partners. He stressed that tripartism is important and we have to develop it and make it sustainable.
“He is the right candidate [for the presidency] with a heart for the people. He has no airs and is humble and always willing to listen.”
Advancement of tripartism
Mr Tharman has advocated the advancement of tripartism through key councils he chaired, the National Productivity Council, SkillsFuture Council, and subsequently, the Council for Skills, Innovation and Productivity.
Through his involvement in the councils, he has engaged NTUC and other tripartite partners to formulate and implement policies that promote sustainable economic growth, social progress, and labour rights and enhance workers’ training and lifelong employability.
Development and implementation of the Progressive Wage Model
Mr Tharman also played a significant role in developing and implementing the Progressive Wage Model (PWM).
As Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance when the PWM was announced in 2012, he actively supported and advocated the adoption of the PWM together with NTUC.
He galvanised the Government’s commitment to the PWM and emphasised the importance of fair wages and career progression for lower-wage workers.
Mr Tharman referred to the PWM as a “Minimum Wage Plus”, highlighting the importance of workers’ upskilling in tandem with wage improvements for sustainable career growth.
Leader amongst unionists
NTUC calls Mr Tharman “an unassuming and approachable leader among unionists, one who makes a genuine effort to engage with, understand and address unionists’ and workers’ aspirations and concerns.”
Mr Tharman has served as an advisor to two unions – the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union (SISEU) from February 2007 to March 2012 and the Chemical Industries Employees’ Union (CIEU) from April 2002 to January 2007.
During his tenure, his invaluable guidance led to the growth of CIEU’s membership.
His guidance also established a solid financial footing for SISEU and positioned it for further expansion.
SISEU General Secretary Richard Sim said the union is supportive of Mr Tharman's intention to stand for the Presidential Election. He called Mr Tharman a well-respected figure whom workers and business leaders look up to and added that Singapore will have a good standing among other nations should he be elected.
CIEU General Secretary S Tamilvanan said CIEU is also supportive of Mr Tharman's intention to run for the presidency.
He said: “Brother Tharman is very compassionate towards workers, and we appreciate the engagements he had with us to understand ground concerns. We are happy that he has indicated his intention to stand in the Presidential Election 2023 and we are confident that our workers will support him.”
NTUC added: “Brother Tharman sincerely listened to and understood the concerns of workers and the needs of management partners, contributing to the formation of policies that uplift their lives.”
NTUC conferred on Mr Tharman the Medal of Honour in 2017, the highest award of the year, for his outstanding contributions to the Labour Movement.