New faces to strengthen top ranks in labour movement

SINGAPORE - The National Trades Union Congress is targeting new faces to join its top leadership ranks by January.

Labour chief Lim Swee Say saidon Thursday that NTUC is "seriously looking into strengthening the top leadership tier of the labour movement".

While Mr Lim did not specify any potential candidates, he said the process is already underway.

"I will be going through my team, pull out names, seek endorsement of the central committee, and when ready, we will announce," said the NTUC secretary general after a three- day biennial workplan meeting that ended yesterday.

His comments come after the movement lost nine labour MPs and leaders in the past two years due to reasons such as promotion, retirement and resignation.

They include labour MPs Halimah Yacob, Josephine Teo, Seng Han Thong, Zainudin Nordin and Alex Yam, as well as Mr Ong Ye Kung and Mr Desmond Choo.

In June and July, the central committee - NTUC's highest decision- making body - lost the presidents of the unions representing transport and electronic workers.

One was retrenched from his job in the electronics sector and the other was ousted in a union election.

Strengthening union leadership and the role of female union leaders were among the topics discussed at the meeting.

The NTUC is trying hard to attract more women to become union leaders, Mr Lim said.

Only 1,700 of its 6,100 union leaders are women, and Mr Lim acknowledged that there is "room for further improvement" in this area.

Mr Lim told reporters after the meeting that the union leaders have outlined two key priorities for the next two years: to boost low-wage workers' pay and to draw more professionals, executives and managers into union ranks.

NTUC will soon unveil systematic training and mentoring for its union leaders to meet these challenges, which it dubbed the "development circuit".

NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How said : "When membership grows, you organise more companies, that in itself will require more (union) branches and branch leaders."

Hence, Mr Heng said, union leaders have to be well-trained and capable, and be no "pushover" when they enter into negotiations with companies on behalf of workers.

Union leaders have welcomed NTUC's new training scheme.

Madam Rahimah Abdullah, 52, a branch chairman for the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees' Union, said: "We need to go for courses and training to enhance our knowledge of how to be a better leader, and on communication."

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