May Day Special: The PAP and NTUC are deepening their partnership at all levels

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng with members of the NTUC Central Committee and NTUC and party activists at the Party Conference in 2022. (Source: Ng Chee Meng's Facebook)

On the eve of Labour Day (May 1), NTUC reflects on how the partnership between PAP and NTUC has strengthened overtime.  

By National Trades Union Congress

The People’s Action Party and National Trades Union Congress have strengthened and will continue to strengthen their partnership to better support workers in Singapore.   

In November 2023 at the NTUC National Delegates Conference, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed the need to continue building the PAP-NTUC partnership.

He noted that at the leadership level, he has maintained close contact with  NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng, political office holders and Members of Parliament within the Labour Movement. Mr Lee regularly meets them to discuss major policy issues, and hear their views and concerns.

The party’s top decision-making body, the Central Executive Committee, continued to co-opt Mr Ng as member in 2020 and 2022.

In turn, Mr Ng and union leaders help communicate national perspectives to unions and workers, so they better understand NTUC’s role in the national context.

Mr Lee said that the PAP is looking forward to fielding new candidates from the Labour Movement for the next General Election. A couple have already been identified. He is confident that they will represent workers and constituents well and looks forward to them joining the political fight for Singaporeans, he added.

PM Lee has urged MPs to engage workers directly

In November 2020 at the PAP Conference, PM Lee noted that while the PAP-NTUC partnership remains “very strong” at the leadership level, engagement between party branches and individual unions, and union branches is not so deep.  He urged PAP MPs to go beyond merely advising unions by helping with ground efforts and directly engaging workers. This is to gain a solid understanding of their concerns and voice these concerns in Parliament.

He also stressed the need to recruit more union leaders to join the PAP and have more party activists in the union ranks. This would ensure close ties at the working level and allow both the party and NTUC to develop new generations of activists.

Several PAP MPs and Branch Chairpersons currently serve as advisors to the 58 different NTUC-affiliated trade unions, including those in wards held by the Opposition.

Edward Chia connected NICA and Fei Yue Community Services to pilot a active ageing project for seniors  

Edward Chia with PAP and NTUC activists at Senja Hawker Centre on March 2, 2024. (Source: Edward Chia Bing Hui’s Facebook)

MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Edward Chia Bing Hui serves as Advisor to the National Instructors & Coaches Association (NICA). NICA was established by the NTUC in 2019 to represent instructors and coaches – many of whom are freelancers.  They teach sports, outdoor adventures and learning, fitness, wellness, visual arts and performing arts, and enrichment courses. Through close partnership with relevant government agencies and sector partners, NICA aims to support coaches and instructors in their career development and wellbeing.

Edward Chia at the NICA Convention of Delegates 2023 (Source: Edward Chia’s Facebook)

Mr Chia has actively engaged members to explore new ways to empower coaches and instructors. Through discussions with members, Mr Chia has voiced their concerns in Parliament, and advocated for them. Mr Chia has also helped to facilitate meaningful partnerships. These include connecting NICA and Fei Yue Community Services to pilot a project focused on active ageing for seniors in his Zhenghua constituency.

Edward Chia, together with NICA and Fei Yue AAC, joined seniors from the Zhenghua ward for 10 sessions of mini hike. This was taken to commemorate the last session of the hike! (Source: Edward Chia’s Facebook)

Mr Chia said: “My goal is to unite the passion and expertise of our instructors and coaches in arts, music, and sports with opportunities to engage our seniors at the Senior Activity Centre. I hope this introduction will create more programmes for our seniors to lead healthy and fulfilling golden years.”

Beyond serving as as Advisor to NICA, Mr Chia has advocated for worker-related issues. These include voicing his support for Workplace Fairness Legislation in Parliament and the community. Mr Chia also participated in Project Rider, a project spearheaded by MP for Bukit Panjang SMC Liang Eng Hwa, to show appreciation to delivery riders, hear their concerns, and find solutions for a safer environment.

Murali Pillai invites bus captains at Bukit Batok Bus Interchange for CNY lunch yearly

Mr Murali Pillai with Cheryl Tan, a Customer Experience and Inclusivity Officer at Tower Transit during a visit to Bukit Batok Bus Interchange on January 29, 2023. (Source: Murali Pillai’s Facebook)

MP for Bukit Batok SMC Murali Pillai currently serves as an Advisor to the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) and the Port Officers’ Union (POU). Affectionately known as “Ah Mu” by Bukit Batok residents, Mr Pillai has advocated strongly for transport workers since becoming an MP in 2016.

Since 2017, Mr Pillai has been hosting bus captains at Bukit Batok Bus Interchange every year, inviting them to a Chinese New Year lunch on Ren Ri (人日), the seventh day of the Lunar New Year. To Mr Pillai, this small gesture conveys appreciation for the essential services they provide to the Bukit Batok community and by extension, Singapore.

Mr Pillai has participated in many union events and activities, from regularly attending NTWU Executive Committee meetings and union conferences to fundraising efforts, bursary presentations, dinner and dances, and family days. As a lawyer, Mr Pillai has also provided the union with legal and investment advice.

Murali Pillai engaging students and their parents at POU’s 8th Study Award Presentation Ceremony on March 25, 2024. (Source: Port Officers’ Union’s Facebook)

Sun Xueling discussed potential programmes that could benefit PUBEU members with

Ms Sun Xueling with Public Utilities Board Employees’ Union (PUBEU) President Ken Tan (seated to the left of Ms Sun), PUBEU Executive Secretary Kimberly Chua (standing, first from right), along with CEO, Group Head of Engagement and Programmes, as well as PAP Punggol West activists. (Source: Sun Xueling’s Facebook)

MP for Punggol West SMC Sun Xueling serves as an Advisor to the Public Utilities Board Employees’ Union (PUBEU). She learnt from discussions with union leaders that many PUBEU members wanted to strengthen bonds with their families. As many PUBEU members are fathers, they wished to better care for and communicate with their children.

In March 2024, Ms Sun met with PUBEU President Ken Tan to explore potential programmes with that could benefit PUBEU members and parents living in Punggol West .

Working fathers at PUBEU taking time off during their lunch time for the webinar jointly organized by PAP Punggol West Branch, and PUBEU. (Source: Sun Xueling’s Facebook)

The discussion led to a lunchtime webinar on building strong family bonds and tips for relating to teenage children. It was well attended by working fathers in PUBEU and Punggol West.

Participants and organisers who attended the webinar held on April 17, 2024. (Source: Sun Xueling’s Facebook)

New generations of union leaders must understand relationship between PAP and NTUC: PM Lee

At the PAP Awards and Convention in 2017, PM Lee had said that while older union leaders who have worked closely with the PAP government understood the relationship between PAP and NTUC well, and strengthened the relationship, the NTUC must nurture the same understanding and relationship with new generations of union leaders.

In this way, Singapore’s unique symbiotic relationship which has helped Singapore weather the numerous crises over the years of nation-building, can continue to thrive.