Madam Rahmah Abdul Rahim lost her job producing videocasette recorders during the Asian financial crisis in 1997, but instead of giving in to despair, she pulled her socks up and went for training to get a new job.
Today, with the help of the labour movement, she is working as a senior manufacturing specialist at ST Microelectronics.
"I didn't know what to do when I lost my job. I had been working at the same place since I graduated in 1977. If I was not open to upgrading my skills, I don't know what I will be doing now," said Madam Rahmah, 55.
She is one of the thousands of workers who have contributed in their own small way to the progress of the country.
And yesterday, outgoing labour chief Lim Swee Say paid tribute to them in his May Day rally speech. He cited some 15 workers who have helped build the country, including Mr Chiam Ah Kow, who reclaimed land at Tuas.
Today, the 71-year-old is a lifting supervisor, mentoring new staff at PPL Shipyard.
He decided to take a course in lifting because operating a crane or forklift was considered skilled labour that paid more.
"I had a family, and I was worried about feeding them for the long term," he said. "Reclaiming land was very hard work, and I was not sure I could do it for long."
Mr Chiam was among the various "ordinary workers with extraordinary spirit", said Mr Lim.
He said: "As a workforce, we must uphold the fighting spirit and courage of our pioneers... and keep moving forward together as one new economy, one renewed workforce."
The reason for Singapore's success - "where many others have failed" - is tripartism, said Mr Lim.
This year's May Day is also special because it marks the creation of a new set of tripartite leaders.
At the Singapore National Employers Federation, Dr Robert Yap took over from Mr Stephen Lee.
Mr Chan Chun Sing, who is currently deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), will take on the role of labour chief on Monday.
Meanwhile, Mr Lim will move from NTUC to be the new Manpower Minister - a position previously held by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, the current Social and Family Development Minister.
Dr Yap said: "We have a nice tripartite relationship. We get together all the time, we speak to each other and tell our issues and problems."
This article was first published on May 02, 2015.
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