Excerpts from Not by Wages Alone, by Devan Nair

Transcribed by Jess C Scott from Not By Wages Alone (Selected Speeches and Writings of Devan Nair, 1959-1981).

Full article at Singapore Repository.

Excerpts from “Not by Wages Alone — Reflections on the Elimination of Strife in Industry” (1972)
by Devan Nair

Mr. Devan Nair bidding farewell to NTUC staff members in 1981, the year he became President. — ST FILE PHOTO

(1) But there is a bit too much of artificial euphoria in our Republic, what with the seeming economic boom. . .and so on and so forth.

(2) The survival of a small nation state like Singapore depends on the degree to which we achieve integration at all levels — national integration of different ethnic, linguistic and religious groups; educational and social integration so that each individual feels part of the national larger community; integration of development efforts involving the tripartite association of Government, entrepreneurs and labour.

(3) Now, if you regard the wage motive as the sole motivation that a worker is capable of, then it stands to reason that he will try and conform to your expectation. There will be no place in his thinking for solidarity of interests with the enterprise he works in, for pride of achievement, for job satisfaction and other satisfactions.

(4) If the commercialism of the labour market treats the worker as a mercenary, then a mercenary he inevitably becomes.

(5) One may expect wages and salaries, however, to be increasingly determined in future years on the basis of general guidelines laid down by the National Wages Council, having regard to the performance and the growth rate of the national economy as a whole. This should help to remove fears that incomes of workers in the Republic do not keep pace with economic growth and capacity.

(6) Wages and salaries are not the sole determinants of either the quality of production or of the quality of our society.

(7) The worker has a right not only to a decent wage. He has also a right to expect, and a civilised society owes this to him, that his work will provide him with satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment. To regard the worker as nothing more than a wage slave enhances neither productivity nor the quality of our society. It merely diminishes the one and depraves the other.

(8) The successful personnel manager is one who can steer both management and workers to a shared sense of partnership in production, and is able to promote a sense of loyalty and of belonging to the enterprise on the part of the workers and of genuine concern for the progress of the undertaking as a whole.

(9) The improved industrial climate and the higher productivity. . .will be something quite beyond the reach of the old tribe of bullying drill-sergeant supervisors, whose only measurable achievements are man-hours lost, and not man-hours gained.

(10) If desirable changes for the better are to take place in our present system and concepts of industrial relations, we require to have our forerunners to scout the possibilities of improvements in the future. [Singaporeans] must be their own forerunners into the future.

C.V. Devan Nair, in Not By Wages Alone (1972)