Govt will work closely with labour chief Ng Chee Meng even though he is not in Cabinet: PM Lee

Labour chief Ng Chee Meng and the PAP team he led in Sengkang GRC lost to the Workers' Party in the recent election. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Government will continue to work closely with labour chief Ng Chee Meng to understand workers' needs, even though he is no longer a member of the Cabinet, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Ideally, the National Trades Union Congress secretary-general would be an elected MP who can be made a Cabinet minister, Mr Lee said.

"That's how we have operated for a very long time, I think, ever since Lim Chee Onn was the secretary-general of NTUC. Unfortunately, this time, Chee Meng did not get re-elected. He remains secretary-general of NTUC," he added.

Mr Lim was NTUC secretary-general from 1979 to 1983, and Minister without Portfolio in the Prime Minister's Office from 1980 to 1983.

Mr Lee was responding to a question during a press briefing on Saturday (July 25) on new Cabinet appointments, when he was asked how workers' interests will be affected amid the Covid-19 crisis, now that the position of NTUC secretary-general is not held by a Cabinet minister.

At the recent election, Mr Ng and the PAP team he led in Sengkang GRC lost to the Workers' Party.

PM Lee said: "We will continue to work very closely with him and we will find other ways to keep closely in touch - to understand what the workers' needs are, and what the unions' perspectives are. I will be meeting him regularly, and I'm sure (Heng) Swee Keat and his team will also be meeting Chee Meng regularly."

On July 14, the NTUC central committee issued a statement in support of Mr Ng Chee Meng continuing in his role as its secretary-general, saying the post is independent of political appointments.

DPM Heng Swee Keat on Saturday said he had many discussions with Mr Ng before the election, on how the Government can support workers during the severe recession and minimise the risk of further job losses.

There is a need to help workers acquire new skills and place our workers in new jobs, he said, adding that he had a long discussion on this issue with Mr Ng and the team of economic ministers two days ago.

Mr Heng added that such discussions will go on. "I will continue to have many meetings with Chee Meng as well as the senior leadership of the NTUC, so that we can support our workers and get through this crisis well."

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