WHILE most of the country enjoys the Chinese New Year break, others have to put in their shift to keep Singapore ticking.
In a show of support, Acting Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean handed out mandarin oranges and hongbao to around 100 workers when he visited PSA Marine and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore on Thursday.
National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) deputy secretary-general Chan Chun Sing visited staff at SBS Transit and SMRT - leading the yusheng toss at Hougang bus and Sengkang train depots.
Traditionally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visits those who work in essential services on the first day of Chinese New Year. But he was recovering from Monday's surgery to remove his prostate gland, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He "dropped in" online instead, sharing his greetings on Facebook.
"I'm sorry that I'm not able to be up and about this new year. And that's why I'm recording this now, before my operation," he said, speaking in Mandarin and English in a one- minute video.
"The Year of the Horse has been good. Let's work together in the Year of the Goat, so that there'll be a wonderful SG50," he added.
Meanwhile, Mr Teo, after his visit - accompanied by his wife, NTUC president Diana Chia, secretary-general Lim Swee Say and Mr Chan - said he saw great strides made in productivity in the port and maritime sector.
Productivity will continue to be important, he added, explaining that it was necessary, given the limited pool of Singaporean workers. "Higher productivity means we can do more with the workers that we have, and we need to depend less on lower-skilled foreign workers who come to Singapore."
Mr Chan, who is Minister for Social and Family Development, was accompanied by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance Josephine Teo and executive committee members of the National Transport Workers' Union during his visits to the depots and then Tanah Merah MRT station. He said: "On behalf of all Singaporeans I really want to thank all these quiet workers behind the scenes."
SBS Transit bus captain Khor Hwee Chong, 47, who usually works the 4.30am to 3.15pm shift, said this was his 14th year working on the first day of Chinese New Year, but "if the commuters are happy then I am also happy".
This article was first published on Feb 21, 2015.
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