Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has received the labour movement's Medal of Honour for his contributions to Singapore's workforce and tripartism.
Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, was presented with the award at the National Trades Union Congress May Day Awards ceremony yesterday.
NTUC president Mary Liew said in a speech at the event that Mr Khaw stood with healthcare workers during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) crisis in 2003 when he was heading the Sars combat team in the Ministry of Health.
"You walked the talk, you held them together, and you fought their battle, and you uplifted their lives as well," she said of Mr Khaw.
He also promoted productivity so that Singapore workers can be "world class" and enjoy the gains from productivity improvements, she said.
NTUC, in its citation for the Medal of Honour, the highest award to be given out by the labour movement this year, said that under Mr Khaw's leadership, centralised academies such as the Singapore Rail Academy and the Singapore Bus Academy were set up to train public transport workers.
To improve rail reliability, he started the "early closure, late opening" initiative to give rail engineers and technicians more time to safely complete repairs, maintenance and renewal work on MRT lines. He visits depots, interchanges and tunnels to understand workers' challenges and celebrate milestones.
With the advent of private-hire car services, the Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority worked with the National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association to help drivers keep up with changes.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
I am blessed to have worked alongside people who work not for themselves, but for the larger good.
The NTUC and the unique Singapore way to the labour movement have allowed me to make a small difference to Singapore during the past 41 years.
Without the NTUC, my achievements would have been severely diminished.
I am grateful to receive the 2019 May Day Medal of Honour by NTUC. I receive it in great humility, and on behalf of all my former and current colleagues.
MR KHAW BOON WAN, Minister for Transport and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, in a Facebook post last night.
NTUC also highlighted Mr Khaw's role as chairman of the council of advisers of the Education Services Union since it was formed in 2006. He was vital in identifying the rapid growth in the private education industry, it said.
As People's Action Party chairman from 2011 to last year, he also "affirmed and nurtured" the longstanding symbiotic relationship between the party and NTUC.
It said his belief in prioritising workers and his efforts in advancing tripartism have left an indelible mark on the lives of workers.
Past recipients of the Medal of Honour include Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (1999) and Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean (2014) and Tharman Shanmugaratnam (2017).
At yesterday's award event at the University Cultural Centre in Kent Ridge, NTUC recognised 117 unionists, workers, company leaders, public servants and organisations who have supported its initiatives and sought to improve workers' lives.
For the first time, it commended workers who exemplify what it calls Worker 4.0 - people who have improved their employability through skills training, adopted or initiated productivity improvements and adapted to changing work environments. Six workers received the inaugural Model Worker award.
NTUC also celebrated the contributions of the late veteran union leader Cyrille Tan, who died in 2017 at the age of 67. He was conferred the Distinguished Service (Star) Award posthumously.
Mr Tan was a retired NTUC vice-president who had also served as general secretary of the United Workers of Electronic and Electrical Industries for 22 years.
His son Jaimes Tan received the award on his behalf.