TL;DR – A new year and new hopes for workers.
I settled in a little cosy corner at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, happy to have beaten the crowd that was thronging at Starbucks thanks to their 1-for-1 drink promotion. I nestled into my seat and waited for Noor Irdawaty, warmly greeting her when she stepped in. She was as immaculately dressed as I always remember, make-up on point and a huge smile lit up her face as she returned the greeting.
I had bumped into her several times over the course of last year – at the People’s Action Party (PAP) Awards and Convention 2017 and then another time at a union’s movie night, but never long enough to catch until now.
After grabbing drinks, I dove straight in.
“So Irda, first things first, tell the readers a bit more about yourself”
Without skipping a beat, she gamely shared her work journey with me. She’s been with a facilities management company for over a decade and is currently an administrative manager, rising through the ranks from when she first started. Apart from that, she is also actively involved in union work. She had joined the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (BATU) in 2012, and has gone from being just an ordinary member to a union leader.
She oozed passion as she shared the story of how she joined the union. She had seen how her union mentor, Mr Patrick Teo, had stepped up to resolve a company bonus payout issue and that really inspired her. She admires her mentor’s fighting spirit and tries to emulate this while helping her members with their workplace issues. Since 2016, she has also contributed by taking on the role of Assistant General Treasurer within BATU’s Executive Committee.
“Blessed, loved, fulfilled”
The three words that Irda used to sum up her 2017.
When I asked her about the moments in 2017 that were memorable to her, her eyes twinkled while she said “Well, I got proposed to!”
I gave her my heartiest congratulations and teased her that she spent too much time at union gatherings such that her fiancé is also a fellow unionist.
“It’s great to have someone who understands the requirements and time commitments for union work and be a sounding board for ideas. We can even pool resources and networks.”
I guess this was a classic case of passion (in this instance for helping workers) bringing people together. Talk about a perfect match!
A balancing act
It certainly helps to have an understanding fiancée when one is so involved in union work.
Irda broke it down for me. There are months that require more time commitment, especially towards the end of the year where it’s negotiations with management on increments, variable bonuses as well as branch roadshows. Throughout the year, unionists would also be busy with any dispute resolution, organising events for members, mobilising them to go for training/courses etc. It gets even busier when it’s time to negotiate for Collective Agreements (CAs).
Her union, BATU, is also one of the key agents in the recent Industry Transformation Map (ITM) in the construction industry and it has actively participated in activities developed from the ITM launches (such as Build Tech Asia). As ITMs continue to take centerstage in our economic transformation, BATU is set to play an even bigger role in moving things forward.
With so many union commitments on her plate, Irda puts it down to great labour management relations as well as a supportive family that she is able to balance it all.
Leadership renewal is something that is near to Irda’s heart. She shared about her passion for nurturing young union leaders.
“Leadership renewal should be exercised continuously. As long as one has a heart to serve, there should not be any restrictions on the type of personality a union leader needs to have. A good spread of leadership qualities and attributes are what makes for good team. One can compensate or enhance another by having this spread of qualities.”
Three traits she would look out for when scouting for new blood to join her work as a union leader?
Someone who is committed, passionate and compassionate. All union work requires these traits and combined with a “can-do” attitude is a perfect combination.
New hopes for workers
Irda left me with her hopes for workers in 2018 as we rounded up our conversation.
“For everyone to be gainfully employed! Looking at issues such as an ageing population and re-employment, I really hope older workers can have a mindset change and upskill as it is really important.
For younger workers, it is my hope that they won’t be overly choosey or have a sense of entitlement but go into a job with the right attitude. They need to take ownership of their own career.”
And with that, an hour had sped by, my cheeks aching from laughter during our catch up. I was sad to end our session, having enjoyed our heart-to-heart chat and inside jokes so much. I thanked her for her candid answers, inspired by her sharing and decided there and then that my first resolution for 2018 would be to make a bigger impact on the world! Let’s hope I keep it! 😉