Humans usually have a tendency to take things for granted. It has never crossed my mind how transport workers in Singapore have been waking up at unearthly hours and toiling daily to operate our trains and buses and keep the nation moving. It was only when I received a kind email alert from a train service provider from London that my transit from the airport may be affected due to a Tube Strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Union. The strike was a result of plans to close all ticket offices at a cost of 960 jobs. Can you ever imagine what will happen to our economy should a strike of such scale were to happen in Singapore?
With the strike fresh in my mind, I started to better appreciate not just our transport workers but all workers in Singapore who have in one way or another worked hard silently in the background to keep our country going. The thought of these unsung heros made this year’s May Day a very important day to celebrate the contribution of all our workers in Singapore.
Remembering Our Pioneer Generation of Workers
On May Day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to the Pioneer Generation unionists who have set Singapore on the path of development and to change the lives of workers for the better.
He officially opened the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability. This campus is dedicated to the late Mr Devan Nair for his contributions to the Labour Movement and Singapore.
To those who don’t know who he is, Mr Nair rose up from humble teaching roots to help to found the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in 1961 and was its first elected Secretary-General.
Throughout his term, he revolutionised and modernised the Labour Movement, steering unions to emphasise on tangible benefits for workers instead of micro-focusing on zero-sum strikes. Mr Nair’s undaunted spirit in championing workers had inspired many, and laid the foundation for the industrial harmony Singapore enjoys today.
How this affects workers is that if another strike were to occur in Singapore or jobs were lost for some reason or another (just like the 960 jobs in UK), e2i will be able to quickly get into action to place the displaced workers into other jobs, or upskill them for other jobs, provided the labour market remains tight and economy stays competitive.
Better News for Older Workers
PM Lee spoke about how the Government will help all workers – especially older and low-wage workers. This includes supporting the ongoing tripartite discussions to extend the re-employment age beyond 65.
NTUC was the main driver calling for this change in public sector. After more than two years of active lobbying, their efforts paid off and they finally managed to nudge PSD to do away with silly schemes that penalise older workers who wish to work beyond the age of 62 years old with a ridiculous 30% pay cut.
This was fantastic news for old folks who are still active and cannot stand idling around at home. I personally know an auntie who probably chooses to continue working even after retirement age. Under the new scheme, she will not suffer a pay cut upon re-employment.
NTUC Secretary-General Lim Swee Say highlighted that whether as employers, workers or customers, everyone depends on one another, adding that everyone has a part to play to make things better for each other.
My favourite part of his speech was when he brought to our attention the unsung heroes who have toiled silently all these years for our nation’s growth and progress in the video below. I was really touched when I realised that our heroes in the video were invited to attend the rally for everyone to celebrate their contributions over the years.
Looking at the crowd that attended the rally, it became very obvious that the older generation of Singaporeans embraced very different measure of success compared to our younger generations today.
While our younger folks celebrate personal achievements, our matured workers are more of team players and you can see from their eyes that they are proud of their job no matter how small or junior the role is perceived to be.
This mindset is not something to be scoffed at. Our forefathers who persevered with performing each and every task with pride, no matter how small or significant the task may be, have built Singapore from a sleepy fishing village to a cosmopolitan city we see today.
We, the younger generations of Singaporeans should not be tipping our noses high up in the air and disregarding the contributions of our fellow workers in our daily lives.
Without them working hard in the background, we may not be enjoying the efficiency and convenience we took for granted. Should our transport workers go on strike, how will you get to your workplace? If our cleaners refuse to work, you will be surrounded by garbage.
Everyone affects one another as an employer, customer or worker. If you are in management position, do your part to be a better employer by valuing your workers’ contributions and create a happy workplace.
When you’re a customer, be appreciative of good service rendered, it takes two hands to clap. If you’re a customer like this lady at Subway, should you be offended if the service staff finds it hard to give you her best service?
No one wants a dead end job, if you can find a way to keep on learning whatever it is you are passionate about, you will be a better and happier worker. Don’t give up on pursuing your better job and life, believe in yourself and dare to dream big.