Nestled in a shipyard in northern Singapore, a temple and a mosque rests next to each other.
Located on a busy junction in the Sembcorp Marine Admiralty Yard, both places of worship have been there for about 20 years, said offshore and marine company Seatrium Project Manager E. Sivachandran.
According to Sivachandran, the company built the temple and mosque, and the Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Employees’ Union (SMEEU) maintains them.
Sivachandran said that thousands of workers in the yard go to the temple and mosque to pray for safety and blessings at work.
The places of worship came at the request of the shipyard workers through the union, and the company agreed to building them as it helped with the workers’ morale.
He added: “For our union members, we came up with this idea to build a temple and a mosque beside each other to show our racial connections and harmony.
“We spoke to the management about this and asked if we can build a temple and a mosque together.”
Sivachandran also said that the temple and mosque are a testament to the good labour-management relations between the company and the union.
Good Labour-Management Relations
The places of worship are not the only reflection of good labour-management relations.
It is also the commitment of both the union and management to improve workers’ welfare and representation.
He said: “It’s a perfect relationship. We have both formal and informal meetings. We have lunch and dinner together. We care for each other with trust and friendship.”
Sivachandran joined the company 16 years ago. He became a union member two months later and a union leader soon after.
He works in an electrical workshop in the yard, supervising the repair and maintenance of vessels’ motors.
The 44-year-old is the SMEEU-Sembcorp Marine Admiralty Yard branch chairman and the union’s general treasurer.
He became a union leader because a former leader inspired him.
He said: “Why can’t I do the same? Instead of doing my daily job doing production work, why don’t I do something extra for union members? When all the good things are done, the blessings will also come to me.”
Sivachandran said juggling work, personal and union commitments is a big challenge. However, he also hopes more members would come forward to serve unions as leaders.
A Representative Union
The Sembcorp Marine Admiralty Yard is also the largest branch under SMEEU, with an over 90 per cent unionisation rate comprising 2,500 members.
The branch holds regular recruitment drives and has seen a record number of new union members with high retention rates.
When he became branch chairman in 2017, he also led negotiations with the company to expand the scope of union representation to include PMEs.
PMEs comprise 25 per cent of union members in the branch, and Sivachandran actively represents them in workplace grievances and wage-related matters.
He believes unions need to keep up with the times to represent beyond the traditional rank-and-file workers.
Being a PME himself, Sivachandran believes that representation should be extended to all workers regardless of their job classification.
Sivachandran said: “It is very important to have a high unionisation rate because that is when you can negotiate for more privileges for the members. We as union leaders need to take up this role, step forward and talk to the management, negotiate for better things, and enhance the employees’ working quality and living standards.”