May Day awards for two ministers

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong (left) being congratulated by NTUC president Diana Chia after receiving the Medal of Honour from NTUC, and labour chief Lim Swee Say presenting the Medal of Honour to DPM Teo Chee Hean (right).

SINGAPORE - When the global financial crisis struck Singapore in 2009, many electronics companies in the region chose to lay off workers.

In Singapore, however, companies worked with unions to send their workers for training.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who has been chief adviser to the United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries since 2004, recalled the episode yesterday.

"Subsequently, when the rebound came, the companies were well positioned to take up new business opportunities and orders, which contributed to the sharp rebound in Singapore's economy," said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security and Home Affairs Minister.

He gave the example to show how the three-way partnership between unions, companies and the Government benefits workers.

Mr Teo has also been adviser to the largest union here, the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers Union, since 2000.

Yesterday, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) presented him with its highest honour, the Medal of Honour.

It credits him with "bringing to the unions a wealth of experience" and supporting their drive to upgrade the skills of workers.

NTUC also singled out his role in leading the productivity drive as chairman of the National Productivity and Continuing Education Council. And as Minister in Charge of the Civil Service, he changed policies to the benefit of older civil servants, it added.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who also received the Medal of Honour, was hailed as "a man with a heart for workers".

He is "committed to championing their rights", NTUC added in its citation.

Mr Gan is chairman of statutory board Singapore Labour Foundation and chief adviser to the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees Union, Singapore's largest service sector union.

He also heads a national committee to improve the employability of older workers and is an adviser to anti-discrimination watchdog Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices.

NTUC described how as manpower minister from 2008 to 2011, he played a vital role in building up the national Continuing Education and Training system.

Mr Gan said he was "deeply honoured" by the award.

"To me, it is a recognition of the close relationship among the tripartite partners and an affirmation of the good trust and understanding we have," he added.

This article was published on April 30 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.