Veteran unionist G. Muthukumarasamy dies at age 68
G. Muthukumarasamy's children remember him as union leader first, dad second
Veteran unionist G. Muthukumarasamy, who was the general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Daily Rated Workers, died on Friday. He was 68.
His children remember him as a union leader first and a father second. The younger of his two sons, Mr M. Kunalan, once came home to find his father in tears.
"I asked him, 'Pa, why are you crying?' He told me his union members finally got their hardship allowance after a long struggle," said Mr Kunalan, 38.
But he never neglected his familial duties, his older son M. Saravana, 42, stressed. "He was always there for us when we needed, but he also taught us how to be independent."
Affectionately known as Brother Kumar to many, Mr Muthukumarasamy was given intravenous antibiotics for a lung infection when his heart stopped suddenly in the hospital, Mr Kunalan said at his father's wake yesterday.
He was cremated at Mandai Crematorium yesterday. He is survived by his wife - Madam Rajah Mani S. Manickam - their two sons, two daughters and four grandchildren.
Mr Muthukumarasamy joined the union as a member in 1992 - the year it was formed - when he was working for the then Public Works Department as a daily rated wireman.
He became its general secretary in 2002. One initiative he pushed for was funeral funding support for union members. Mr Kunalan said his own family is benefiting from that as the union has helped to defray the costs of his father's funeral.
Mr K. Raman, the union's general treasurer, said one of Mr Muthukumarasamy's unrealised goals was to lift the average wage of the 500 members to $2,000 a month. Most now earn an average of $1,600.
Mr Raman, whom Mr Muthukumarasamy was grooming for future leadership, said: "He taught me not to ever give up."
Also at the wake at the void deck of Block 228 Jurong East Street 21, where Mr Muthukumarasamy lived, were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his wife Ho Ching and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean.
In a condolence letter to Mr Muthukumarasamy's wife, National Trades Union Congress president Mary Liew and secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said Mr Muthukumarasamy's contributions to the labour movement were "numerous and enormous".
In 2015, Mr Muthukumarasamy was one of 10 who delivered eulogies at the funeral service of founding father Lee Kuan Yew.
In 2017, Mr Muthukumarasamy was part of the election team for President Halimah Yacob, who called him a "very good friend" and praised his passion for and commitment to the welfare of low-income workers.
Madam Halimah, who attended the wake on Saturday, said in a Facebook post: "The labour movement has lost a strong and dedicated leader but his contributions will be remembered."
Parts of this article have been amended for clarity