WTF is a union leader?

By October 30, 2017Current

TL;DR – Firstly, Singapore got unions meh?

“Did you know?” I was asked. “That security officers actually don’t have arresting rights?”

Uhhh, what?

“Yup. When they arrest somebody for committing a crime, it is known as citizen arrest. Actually, anyone who witnesses such a crime happening can do it too.”

Then why do we need security officers? And why would there be a shortage of 10,000 to 15,000 of them in the job market?

I was chatting with Raymond, who at first glance strikes you as your typical PMET working in Shenton Way. Thirty-five years old, father of two girls aged three and two, SAF-regular-turned-Operations-Manager at security firm Reachfield Security & Safety Management… yup, basic.

Until he tells you that he is also a union leader (???) and has been serving the Union of Security Employees (USE) for 5 years and counting.

Firstly, what exactly does a union leader do?

And secondly, where does he find the time? Considering that he isn’t even paid for his union work.

Today, Raymond (or Chin Ming Jie as stated in his NRIC, I kid you not) is the General-Secretary of the USE and his responsibilities at the union can be very diverse. He says,

“Human management is the world’s toughest job.”

“On a daily basis, I am the civilian encik of the company. With 190 security officers in the company, I manage staffing issues, help to resolve pay issues, conflicts between the officers… sometimes I’m their Aunt Agony and at other times, I’m the Discipline Master of the company.”

“However, unlike my time with the SAF, here I need to use the soft approach for everything. I cannot be too strict and have to constantly shower my security officers with care and concern.”

Perhaps it’s this nurturing instinct of his that led him to serve the union.

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“I was with the company before it was unionised,” he explains. “So I was involved with the entire process and I saw firsthand how joining the union can actually benefit the members.”

“Your monthly $9 NTUC membership actually goes a long way,” he adds. “Which is why I get very sad when people terminate their membership to ‘save money’.”

“You actually don’t.”

When asked about his most memorable incident during his 5 years with the union, Raymond says the wake he attended a few days ago was probably the saddest ever.

A night supervisor whom he was close to had suddenly passed away from a heart attack at the age of 53 and immediately, Raymond wanted to issue the necessary death relief for the family, only to realise that the officer had terminated his membership.

“We have hardship grants, quick relief schemes and bursaries that can help our members out financially during tough periods. This year, more than 370 USE bursary awards totalling $98,500 have been given out.”

Did I mention? He is also currently pursuing his Diploma in Employment Relations at the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute.

How does he manage everything?

“I basically don’t sleep,” he laughs. He also credits his understanding wife who has to give up on yoga and zumba lessons on certain evening that he has classes and/or union activities.

Sunday is strictly for the family though where they will have their routine McDonald’s Morning. He also tries his best to reserve Monday evenings for his personal time with his girls where he can help out with feeding, play with them and put them to bed.

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He cites badminton as a hobby, but hasn’t played a game in quite a while.

But despite the long hours and busy schedule, he doesn’t regret anything. And if given a choice, he would still take up these union responsibilities.

“If we don’t do it, who will?”



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Flora Isabelle Lim

Author Flora Isabelle Lim

On a constant quest to be a really professional internet person.

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