Desmond Choo returns to NTUC

Desmond Choo returns to NTUC
Mr Choo will be NTUC’s director of youth development and deputy director of industrial relations.

A FORMER unionist who lost twice as a People's Action Party (PAP) candidate in Hougang elections is returning to the labour movement.

Mr Desmond Choo, 37, had resigned from the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in May 2013 to join the private sector.

But he will return to its fold next month, in a move that could see him being fielded again by the PAP at the next General Election, due by January 2017.

Mr Choo is getting a promotion in NTUC after his two-year stint at Kestrel Capital, the investment holding company of billionaire investor Peter Lim.

He will hold two senior posts from April 20 - one as the new director of youth development and the other, deputy director of industrial relations, a position he held before he quit NTUC.

NTUC's human resource director, Ms Jacqueline Chin, told The Straits Times yesterday that Mr Choo will also be involved in union work, such as implementing NTUC's progressive wage model, which ties the pay rises of low-wage workers, such as cleaners, to training.

Mr Choo told The Straits Times yesterday he looked forward to using his private-sector experience in strengthening the three-way partnership among unions, employers and the Government.

"Workers' welfare and employability and corporate success go hand in hand," he said in an e-mail reply.

"Advocacy without understanding business structures and concerns will ultimately lead to roadblocks and misunderstandings," he added.

Mr Choo said that he wants to work on integrating NTUC's progressive wage model with SkillsFuture, a government plan to develop a system of lifelong learning for workers using subsidies, study awards and training programme.

At Kestrel Capital, he was senior vice-president of investments, a role that put him amid investment deals like the high-profile takeover of Spanish football club Valencia by Mr Lim last year.

The former government overseas scholar was a police officer for 13 years before joining NTUC in 2010, a year before he stood as a PAP candidate for Hougang in the General Election.

He lost and was defeated again in the same constituency in the 2012 by-election.

But he is not likely to be fielded again in Hougang, a Workers' Party stronghold since 1991.

He has already handed over the reins of adviser to grassroots organisations in Hougang to veteran grassroots leader and businessman Goh Chee Koh, 69.

Mr Choo is now second adviser to grassroots organisations in Tampines East, one of the wards in Tampines GRC.

The first adviser is the ward's MP, former national development minister Mah Bow Tan, 67, who left the Cabinet after the 2011 General Election.

Second advisers have traditionally been groomed to take over from retiring MPs who are the first advisers. They often understudy the incumbent in the run-up to a General Election.

This means Mr Choo will very likely take over from Mr Mah at the next election.

tohyc@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Mar 20, 2015.
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