Homecoming for Halimah Yacob at union's dinner and dance

Halimah Yacob give a speech at the dinner and dance of the United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries (UWEEI).
Halimah Yacob give a speech at the dinner and dance of the United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries (UWEEI).ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE - The United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries dinner and dance on Friday night (Aug 4) was a homecoming of sorts for Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.

She was its executive secretary from 2004 to 2011, and is now advisor to the 60,000-strong union.

In a speech to the 600 unionists and company officials at the dinner, she spoke of the importance of workers, companies and the Government working together.

"(Technological) disruptions are part and parcel of the sector. We can embrace lifelong learning, seize new opportunities to find good jobs, and improve our livelihoods," she said

The dinner marked the start of a campaign to help workers in the electronics, precision and machinery engineering sector upgrade their skills and stay employable.

The month-long campaign includes a career fair, courses in areas such as digital literacy and robotics, and dialogues between companies and public agencies.

It will reach about 1,000 professionals, managers, executives and technicians and companies in the manufacturing sector, which is transforming to keep up with automation trends in factories.

The union's executive secretary Melvin Yong, who is also an MP, told reporters the take-up rate of upgrading has been slow, as companies are worried about the cost of investing in more smart technology while workers are unconvinced about the benefits of training.

The union is one of the affiliated unions under the NTUC's electronics, precision and machinery engineering cluster.

At the dinner, the cluster signed a memorandum of understanding to work with NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and companies to upgrade manufacturing workers' skills.

The dinner and dance capped a busy few weeks for Madam Halimah, who told reporters three weeks ago she was considering whether to run in the September presidential election.

She said last Saturday she was still mulling it.

Meanwhile, the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP has been meeting unionists, community leaders and residents, typically at the rate of at least one event a day.

She has also been giving speeches on the need to upgrade workers' skills and uphold racial and religious harmony at events, several of which were dialogues.

This week, she met Chinese community leaders at the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, at which they discussed foreign policy and economic challenges.

This came a day after she met leaders of Muslim welfare organisation Muhammadiyah at a dialogue, along with several of her fellow Malay-Muslim MPs.

In the past fortnight, Madam Halimah also went for post-Hari Raya celebration at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) Harmony Centre, and met community leaders on the Malay Activity Executive Committees Council of the People's Association.

She also attended a cultural night in Eunos celebrating the food and practices of Singapore's races, and visited a visual arts exhibition held by the three Canossian schools.

The veteran unionist also met fellow unionists from different industries, ranging from petroleum to steel to education services. She also met Chinese teachers and a group of in-house counsels.

At her public events, several people assumed she had made up her mind, and referred to her possible bid with veiled comments on whether they would see her in a different capacity "after September".

Some even declared outright that she would have their support should she run.

To all of these, Madam Halimah had one response: a quiet smile.