Union Leaders Take Service to the Next Level

A few union leaders were highlighted for their exemplary efforts at serving their workers well at the recent OTCi Graduation Ceremony. We speak to three of them here.

When the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute (OTCi) recently welcomed their latest batch of graduates, Guest-of-Honour Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Tharman Shanmuguratnam cast the spotlight on several of them as shining examples of union leadership that display “the commitment to serve their fellow workers to the best of their ability”.

“What keeps… many other union leaders going are the meaning and satisfaction they get from helping fellow workers. And it is their desire to serve that also propels them to want to learn more,” said DPM Tharman.

Mr Hairis Shamshi Mori, 51

Despite having more than 25 years of experience in the Labour Movement, Mr Hairis feels that the Advanced Certificate in Industrial Relations (ACIR) is crucial for a union leader.

“It has showed how we can broaden our perspective for any given issue and see how we can tackle it from different viewpoints. These are things that not just help me be more effective as a union leader, but also personally, as these are lessons I can pass on to my children too,” the Executive Council member of the Union of Power and Gas Employees (UPAGE) said.

At the graduation ceremony, DPM Tharman spoke of the key role that union leaders will play in helping workers familiarise with schemes like the SkillsFuture Credit.

This is something Mr Hairis agrees with. “The union leaders can help break down the different policies into bite-sized digestible bits for workers to understand. They can also gather comments from members and give feedback to the necessary agencies,” he explained.

Ms Joanne Chua, 45

Apart from the full-time job she holds as a purchasing supervisor, Ms Joanne is also a parent of three teenage sons and the Assistant General Secretary of the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union (SISEU). Yet, she managed to find the time to complete her Diploma in Employment Relations.

Her feat left DPM Tharman impressed, as he commended her at the graduation ceremony for the successful juggling of her multiple roles. Ms Joanne attributes this to “a strong sense of purpose and strong family support”.

When asked what advice she has for young budding union leaders, she said: “Having the passion to serve is the most important thing for a union leader. With no passion, you won’t stay long (in the Labour Movement) and be committed to serve.”

Mr William Seah, 55

With 33 years of experience as a union leader, one would think William Seah already has plenty of leadership knowledge. But the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) Executive Committee member believes it is not enough.

“In whichever industry we are in, we are moving all the time, so our learning can never stop. The Diploma in Employment Relations from OTCi helps us to understand employment policies better, so we can better fight for our workers,” he said.

William cited an example of the Employment Act.

He shared: “We understand how it protects us, but didn’t quite fully understand how. The course allows us to dive deeper into it, so we have a better understanding of it.

“We also understood more Human Resource policies, which helps us to have better relations between the workers, the union and employer.”

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