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NTUC reaffirms support for Ng Chee Meng to stay on as labour chief

[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 the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

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

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

Said Ms Liew: "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. Lim Chee Onn was the first labour chief to be appointed Minister in the Prime Minister's Office in 1980.

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The NTUC's 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 NTUC central committee's request and mutual agreement with the government that a minister is seconded to NTUC.

She said: "Whilst 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."

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

Mr Ng became labour chief on May 22 last year, 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.

Mr Koh, who was elected as MP for Tampines GRC last Friday, remains one of two deputy secretaries-general, together with 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.

To date, some 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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