Shipping union starts new fund to improve welfare

NTUC secretary-general Mr Chan presenting a red packet to Mr Leo, a former marine chief engineer and SMOU member, who is accompanied by his wife, Madam Dan (left), during the SMOU 65th anniversary Chinese New Year luncheon and hongbao presentation yesterd
NTUC secretary-general Mr Chan presenting a red packet to Mr Leo, a former marine chief engineer and SMOU member, who is accompanied by his wife, Madam Dan (left), during the SMOU 65th anniversary Chinese New Year luncheon and hongbao presentation yesterday. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The Singapore Maritime Officers' Union (SMOU) has set up a $1.1 million care fund to support members in need and their children's education in case of financial difficulties, unforeseen medical conditions, or even death.

It will also be handing out $1.5 million to shipping companies to increase training and improve welfare for members on board their vessels.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general Chan Chun Sing announced the new initiatives at SMOU's Chinese New Year luncheon yesterday.

The care fund will provide subsidies for transport and assistive devices such as wheelchairs, scooters and prosthetics.

It will also offer caregiver training and bursaries that will allow the children of dead members to continue pursuing their education.

Said SMOU general secretary and NTUC president Mary Liew: "This fund is especially practical with an ageing population. With age, members may be more susceptible to various health problems that may affect their mobility."

One of the new fund's beneficiaries will be former marine chief engineer Leo Boon Hui, 77, who has been a wheelchair user since he suffered a stroke nearly 30 years ago.

His wife and sole caregiver, Madam Dan Wah Eng, 76, welcomed the aid. "It's very good," said the part-time shop assistant. "Whatever we need, we can ask them for it."

The union will also be disbursing $1,000 per vessel to shipping companies with which it has a collective bargaining agreement, to ensure seafaring members continue to receive adequate welfare and training despite the uncertain economy.

Mr Chan called upon the shipping community to beat the economic slowdown by forging stronger connectivity between Singapore and the rest of the world.

"For instance, many people are talking about using big data to analyse changes in trade patterns, and start new services and lines of operations to meet tomorrow's needs," he said.

"These are also the things we need to do."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2016, with the headline 'Shipping union starts new fund to improve welfare'. Print Edition | Subscribe