Singapore

NTUC reaffirms support for Ng Chee Meng as labour chief

Questions had been raised about his post in labour movement after election loss

The labour movement's top leadership has reaffirmed its support for Mr Ng Chee Meng.

In a statement yesterday, National Trades Union Congress president Mary Liew said Mr Ng will retain his position in the organisation.

"As an NTUC elected position, it is a position which stands independent of political appointments. The members of the NTUC central committee stand in unanimous support for Brother Ng Chee Meng as secretary-general of NTUC," she said.

Questions had been raised about Mr Ng's position in the labour movement after the PAP team he led in Sengkang GRC lost to the Workers' Party in last Friday's election.

The National Trades Union Congress' central committee elects among itself the president, secretary-general and other key office holders, after committee members are elected by union delegates at a conference once every four years.

Ms Liew said it is on the request of the central committee, and mutual agreement with the Government, that a minister is seconded to NTUC.

A Cabinet minister has held the secretary-general post for the last 40 years.

She said: "Whilst the two roles have been inextricably linked, they are in fact independent of each other... Brother Ng Chee Meng has over the last two years pushed for many good initiatives for workers, and this is work that must continue."

In a separate Facebook post yesterday, Mr Ng said he will soon be stepping down from the Cabinet, but will continue to fulfil his elected role in NTUC.

He said: "I will continue to serve workers who have given me their trust and I remain as undeterred as the day I first joined the labour movement - to be alongside our workers and to be their voice... "

Mr Ng became labour chief on May 22, 2018, taking over from Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Ms Liew, in her statement, said Mr Ng had championed workers' training through the setting up of company training committees, through which union leaders and company management plan and operationalise training for workers.

He also launched the NTUC Job Security Council this year to match retrenched workers and those at risk of losing their jobs amid the pandemic to opportunities in other companies.

Healthcare Services Employees' Union president and former Nominated MP K. Thanaletchimi said since both the PAP and NTUC have a symbiotic relationship, the Government will continue to give importance to workers, even if the labour chief is not a minister.

Political observer Felix Tan, an associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, said Mr Ng's network would still be valuable within the tripartite arrangement.

But he said NTUC's move may send a confusing signal to Singaporeans as it raises questions about why, for the past 40 years, a Cabinet minister - instead of others within NTUC - needed to be secretary-general.

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