Former NMP Mary Liew second woman elected to top NTUC post

Former MP Yeo Guat Kwang (far left) and labour MP Ang Hin Kee (far right) with the new central committee members (from left to right): Mr Heng Chee How, Ms Eileen Yeo, Mr Richard Tan, Mr Yeo Chun Fing, Mr Benjamin Tang, secretary- general Chan Chun S
Former MP Yeo Guat Kwang (far left) and labour MP Ang Hin Kee (far right) with the new central committee members (from left to right): Mr Heng Chee How, Ms Eileen Yeo, Mr Richard Tan, Mr Yeo Chun Fing, Mr Benjamin Tang, secretary- general Chan Chun Sing, Mr Arasu Duraisamy (in red, partially blocked), president Mary Liew, Mr Ong Hwee Liang, Mr Toh Hock Poh, Ms Cham Hui Fong, Mr Luke Hee, Mr Andy Lim, Mr K. Karthikeyan, Mr Thuvinder Singh, Mr Tan Hock Soon, Mr Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab, Ms K. Thanaletchimi, Mr Edwin Lye, Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Philip Lee.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Chan Chun Sing remains secretary-general; 9 new faces on 21-member central committee

For the second time in union history, a woman has been handed the top leadership position in the labour movement.

Former Nominated Member of Parliament Mary Liew said she was truly humbled and honoured after she was yesterday elected by unionists as National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) president.

The 52-year-old takes over from Ms Diana Chia, who was NTUC's first female president when she was elected in 2011.

Ms Chia, 59, did not seek re-election because of her age.

Cabinet Minister Chan Chun Sing, 46, yesterday also won his first union elections and retained his post as NTUC secretary-general.

IT'S ABOUT TEAMWORK

To us the most important characteristic of this 21-member team is really the teamwork. We are not particularly focused on who has the highest vote.

CABINET MINISTER CHAN CHUN SING, who retained his post as NTUC secretary-general

The president and secretary-general are the two top posts in NTUC.

The president is the highest-ranking position and it has always been held by unionists.

The secretary-general runs the labour movement's day-to-day business and heads a full-time secretariat to support the central committee in planning and implementing programmes in the labour movement. Since 1980, the post has been held by a Cabinet minister.

Ms Liew and Mr Chan are part of a new 21-member central committee that was elected by around 400 union leaders to lead the NTUC over the next four years.

The committee - NTUC's highest decision-making body - saw an infusion of new blood, with newcomers filling nine of the 21 seats.

The youngest member is 39 and the oldest, 58.

The new leadership team is a "balanced" one in terms of experience, age, gender and the union sectors they represent, said Mr Chan.

"The new team has a strong mandate from the (union) delegates," he added.

The NTUC did not release voting results, but sources said that Mr Chan was the top scorer, winning more than 90 per cent of votes.

"Of course having very high votes is a strong mandate, (and) is an affirmation of the work that the previous central committee has done. It also shows confidence in the new central committee. So we'd like to take that in that spirit," he said.

But he preferred to focus on how well the committee members can work together instead of the numbers. "To us the most important characteristic of this 21-member team is really the teamwork. We are not particularly focused on who has the highest vote."

Several veteran unionists retained their posts. Mr K. Karthikeyan, 56, and Mr Edwin Lye, 45, were re-elected vice-presidents. Mr Heng Chee How, 54, and Ms Cham Hui Fong, 47, were re-elected deputy secretary-general and assistant secretary-general, respectively.

Three unionists were elected to key posts: Mr Toh Hock Poh, 58, is the new secretary for financial affairs; Mr Tan Hock Soon, 53, the new vice-president; and Mr Yeo Chun Fing, 58, the assistant secretary for financial affairs, a newly created post.

Along with Mr Yeo, other fresh faces are labour MP Patrick Tay, 43; Mr Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab, 43; Mr Luke Hee, 41; Ms K. Thanaletchimi, 49; Mr Philip Lee, 58; Mr Tan Richard, 50; Mr Thuvinder Singh, 46; and Ms Eileen Yeo, 50.

Mr Abdul Samad, general secretary of the Union of Power and Gas Employees, said he was inspired by the late Nithiah Nandan when he became a union leader in 2006.

"I learnt from him to put workers before myself," he said.

Mr Nithiah, a former NTUC vice-president who died of cancer in 2007 at age 57, was highly regarded for fighting for the rights of daily-rated workers.

Rounding up the central committee are four re-elected members of the previous committee: Mr Arasu Duraisamy, 47; Mr Andy Lim, 39; Mr Ong Hwee Liang, 50; and Mr Benjamin Tang, 39.

The NTUC said in a statement that the central committee has appointed three assistant secretary- generals to the secretariat: labour MPs Ang Hin Kee and Zainal Sapari, and former MP Yeo Guat Kwang.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'Former NMP Mary Liew second woman elected to top NTUC post'. Print Edition | Subscribe