by Augustine Low
Ng Chee Meng has been secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress since 1 May 2018. But it seems that he has only been actively championing for workers of late – after the general election, to be precise.
His latest move is to form a task force to protect the interests of local professional, managerial and executive (PME) workers. He explained why: “PMEs now feel a growing sense of anxiety about whether their job is secure. And it is with this feedback that I think we have reached somewhat of a tipping point for NTUC to actually act upon this feedback and see how we can take the initiative to help this group of PMEs.”
In truth, the tipping point was reached a long time ago. It’s just that for years, Ng and his colleagues turned a deaf ear to the feedback and pleas of the people.
But since Ng was booted out of Sengkang GRC and lost his ministerial post, he has had no choice but to listen more and act swiftly as NTUC secretary-general. A part-time job has essentially become a full-time job.
In this regard, we have to thank Sengkang GRC voters for kicking Ng out. Otherwise, would he have the time and the inclination to proactively recommend tightening Employment Pass policies and safeguarding the jobs of PMEs?
Ng Chee Meng is showing us that Singaporeans have been taken for granted. A kick in the rear can be an almighty wake-up call for our politicians. But what he is doing is just the start. He needs to do a lot more to prove that he has learnt his lesson and is worthy of a political comeback.
Elites like former general Ng have had it too good for too long. We are the only country where generals have cushy jobs awaiting them upon retirement. A ready-made second career, one that is even more lucrative than the first! They can be parachuted into politics, into any number of statutory boards, into Temasek Holdings and its many organisations.
Imagine if the People’s Action Party had lost more Ministers in GE2020. Had S Iswaran been booted out of West Coast GRC, he could have returned to Temasek where he was previously Managing Director. Today, he might be talking about the need for greater transparency and accountability at Temasek.
Imagine too if Heng Swee Keat was shown the door at East Coast GRC. He would have to ditch his East Coast plan for a job at the Monetary Authority of Singapore where he previously served as Managing Director. Today, Heng might well be focusing on building a Singaporean core for the banking and financial sector.
We need to learn a valuable lesson from the Sengkang GRC voters. Complacency breeds apathy and stagnation. There’s nothing like booting out the incumbent Member of Parliament and Minister for a breath of fresh air.
As Ng Chee Meng is showing, change is good, change is necessary, change works wonders.