New labour chief gives Jurong Island workers a hand

New labour chief gives Jurong Island workers a hand
New labour chief Mr Chan Chun Sing

For more than 15 years, workers at Jurong Island's oil refineries have been frustrated by infrequent shuttle buses.

But things will improve when a new bus service starts next month, thanks to new labour chief Chan Chun Sing.

Mr Chan stepped in after hearing about the problem during a meeting last month with leaders of the United Workers of Petroleum Industry union (UWPI).

The JTC Corporation, which manages Jurong Island, contacted the union shortly after and discussions led to the new service.

Mr Chan's sincerity in improving workers' lives has left a lasting impression on union leaders.

"It took just one meeting with him (Mr Chan) to solve a problem that has troubled workers on Jurong Island for 15 years," said Mr K. Karthikeyan, the UWPI's general secretary.

Mr Chan said he has been meeting union leaders every day to get up to speed with the demands of being labour chief - a role which he was given less than four months to prepare for.

So far, he has covered about half of the 60 unions affiliated to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

The 45-year-old joined NTUC full-time in late January and took over as secretary-general yesterday. "Whenever you take over a job, you always hope to have the longest runway," he said.

"But life is never such that you can have everything that you want but you make the best of what you have."

Unlike Mr Chan, recent NTUC secretaries-general had been seasoned hands in the labour movement before they were promoted.

Mr Chan's predecessor, Mr Lim Swee Say, was deputy secretary-general from 1997 to 1999 before returning in 2004 and taking over the helm as labour chief three years later.

Before Mr Lim Swee Say was Mr Lim Boon Heng, who spent 26 years working in the NTUC, including the later half as its secretary-general.

Mr Chan said his new appointment was not the result of him asking to join the labour movement. Rather, he was invited by the NTUC central committee.

"I'm not the kind who would say that I want to go here, I want to go there," he said.

"I'm the type of person that if someone offers me an opportunity, and if I think I can make a contribution and if the person is willing to give me a chance, I will go all out and do my best."

Asked about his leadership style, Mr Chan replied: "It is too early to tell. A good leader is not one that has a particular style - we all have our idiosyncrasies - but someone who can bring out the best from his team by adapting his leadership style."

Mr Chan also believes leaders should adapt to organisations to bring out the best in their staff.

Ms K. Thanaletchimi, president of the Healthcare Services Employees' Union, said: "Mr Chan was very humble when he said he has a lot to learn from us."

Mr Fang Chin Poh, general secretary of the National Transport Workers' Union, said: "He is down-to-earth and understands the concerns of workers, especially low-income ones."

ameltan@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Joanna Seow and Aw Cheng Wei


This article was first published on May 5, 2015.
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