Union leaders pay tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew at a remembrance ceremony

Mr G Muthukumarasamy (left) speaking to Mr Chan Chun Sing (centre) and NTUC president Mary Liew at the remembrance ceremony on March 22, 2016.
Mr G Muthukumarasamy (left) speaking to Mr Chan Chun Sing (centre) and NTUC president Mary Liew at the remembrance ceremony on March 22, 2016.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH
The shell casing along with other items specially curated to show the life and time of the late Mr Lee with the Labour Movement.
The shell casing along with other items specially curated to show the life and time of the late Mr Lee with the Labour Movement.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew devoted his entire life to building a better Singapore and especially, a strong labour movement, said National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general Chan Chun Sing.

On Tuesday (March 22), Mr Chan and more than 100 union leaders resolved to build upon the late Mr Lee's legacy at a remembrance ceremony, held a day before the first anniversary of his death.

Mr Lee died on March 23 last year (2015), at the age of 91.

At the ceremony, Mr G Muthukumarasamy presented Mr Chan and NTUC president Mary Liew with an artillery shell casing saved from the 21-gun salute fired during the state funeral procession.

The general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Daily Rated Workers received the shell casing for delivering a eulogy on behalf of unionists at the state funeral service of Mr Lee on March 29 last year.

On why he decided to gift the shell casing to the labour movement, Mr Muthukumarasamy said: "NTUC nominated me for the eulogy, so I wanted to thank them in return, by giving this shell casing. This is also so that everybody in Singapore, every union leader can see it, and follow what Mr Lee wanted."

The shell casing is displayed for public viewing in the NTUC Gallery at the NTUC Centre, alongside other specially curated items. It includes a video of Mr Muthukumarasamy delivering his eulogy as well as a photo of Mr Lee and unionists at a Labour Leadership Appreciation Dinner in January 2012.

Before the presentation, union leaders watched a tribute video detailing Mr Lee's close links to the labour movement, which began in 1952. That year, he represented the Postal and Telecommunications Staff Uniformed Staff Union, who were on strike for better wages and terms of service.

By the time he became Prime Minister seven years later, Mr Lee had represented more than 50 unions.

"Mr Lee gave us tremendous support, not just in words but also in deeds. He gave us the latitude to grow the membership for the good of our workers," Mr Chan said. "He made sure that we continue to have the means to upgrade our workers' skills to remain competitive. All this was to ensure that our workers continued to enjoy improvements to their livelihood year in and year out."

Earlier on Tuesday (March 22), Mr Chan and union leaders discussed the future of the labour movement amid the changing workforce profile and employment landscape at a dialogue.

A key theme that emerged was the need for unionists to build upon the ideals and values of its pioneer leaders, such as trust and passion, so as to stay relevant to a new generation of workers.

"The aspirations of a new generation of workers are more diverse," Mr Chan said. "In the past, we would be talking about collective agreement and bargaining as a baseline service for the rank and file workers, But going forward, we also have provide new services for them, and even the some of the PMEs. For example, many of them are looking for opportunities to upgrade themselves and expand their networks."

He also stressed the need to protect the interests of workers from small and medium enterprises, as well as freelancers, who may not be suitable under the union model of the past.