NTUC reaffirms support for Ng Chee Meng to stay on as labour chief after Sengkang election loss

Questions have been raised about Mr Ng Chee Meng's position in the labour movement. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The labour movement's top leadership has reaffirmed its support for labour chief Ng Chee Meng and said he will remain secretary-general of NTUC.

Questions have been raised about Mr Ng's position in the labour movement after the PAP team he led in Sengkang GRC lost to the Workers' Party in last Friday's (July 10) election.

In a statement on Tuesday, NTUC president Mary Liew said Mr Ng will retain his position in NTUC.

She said: "As an NTUC elected position, it is a position which stands independent of political appointments. The members of the NTUC central committee stand in unanimous support for Brother Ng Chee Meng as secretary-general of NTUC."

A Cabinet minister has held the secretary-general post for the last 40 years. Mr Lim Chee Onn was the first labour chief to be appointed Minister in the Prime Minister's Office in 1980.

The National Trades Union Congress' central committee elects among themselves the president, secretary-general and other principal office bearers, and the committee members themselves are elected by union delegates at a conference once every four years.

Ms Liew said that it is upon the central committee's request and mutual agreement with the Government that a minister is seconded to NTUC.

She said: "While the two roles have been inextricably linked, they are in fact independent of each other.

"As we head into more challenging times ahead, we remain resolute in our mission to help workers. Brother Ng Chee Meng has over the last two years pushed for many good initiatives for workers and this is work that must continue. We stand in solidarity as we continue this journey together," she added.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Mr Ng said he will soon be stepping down from the Cabinet, but will continue to fulfil his elected role in NTUC.

"I will continue to serve workers who have given me their trust and I remain as undeterred as the day I first joined the labour movement - to be alongside our workers and to be their voice," he said.

He also said he is "humbled and honoured" by the strong support and encouragement from fellow unionists, in particular those in the central committee.

"There will be tough days ahead with the Covid-19 challenges. Together with union leaders and my NTUC colleagues, we will stay the course to care for and do right by our workers," said Mr Ng.

The most recent National Delegates' Conference was held in October last year, where a 21-member central committee was chosen, with Ms Liew and Mr Ng at the helm.

Mr Ng became labour chief on May 22, 2018, taking over from Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Before that, Mr Ng and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon had been co-opted into the labour movement as deputy secretaries-general on April 23.

Dr Koh, who was elected as an MP for Tampines GRC last Friday, remains a deputy secretary-general, together with Ms Cham Hui Fong, a former Nominated MP.

Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, was co-opted into the central committee as a third deputy secretary-general last year.

Ms Liew said in her statement that Mr Ng has played an instrumental role in pushing forward initiatives to help secure workers' livelihoods.

He championed workers' training through the setting up of company training committees, through which union leaders and company management work together to plan and operationalise training for workers. Mr Ng said in April last year that the aim is to have 1,000 such committees within the next three years, reaching 330,000 workers.

He also launched the NTUC Job Security Council this year to match retrenched workers and those at risk of losing their jobs amid the Covid-19 pandemic to opportunities in other companies.

So far, about 12,000 workers have been matched to new roles, said Ms Liew.

"Time and again, (Mr Ng) has shown his heart in caring for workers and proven his mettle," she said.

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