18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
Face to Face with Melissa Tay

Story by Shukry Rashid, LabourBeat / Photo by Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat

A biologist who is passionate about her work with the Public Utilities Board Employees' Union (PUBEU) and its members – meet 30-year-old Melissa Tay.

Currently in the executive/management support officer branch of PUBEU, Melissa is also an executive council (exco) member of PUBEU and a member of the Young NTUC Committee.


Tell us about your union journey with PUBEU and Young PUBEU/NTUC.

It was from the engagement with our current PUBEU President Ken Tan that led me to start off to try and play a leadership role in the union. When I joined PUBEU in 2010, there was a lack of female PME (professional, managers and executive) delegates. Ken approached me and started engaging me to join the delegates. I was initially afraid to take on the role as I did not know how I could contribute to the union. But Ken was patient, persuasive and very willing to guide me. A lot of the work done by unionists is not showcased, I have a lot of respect for them and this inspired me to carry on doing my best to help the members as a union leader.


What challenges have you faced?

The challenges are engaging the young workers in the organisation to join as a member of the union. Getting them to join as a union member through sports works as the young people are more health conscious and more active. I am also a sports convenor in the organisation. This added role also allows me to engage more youths through joining sports competitions. I also encouraged my players to rally their colleagues to join in as well. That is how I managed to get quite a few young PMEs to join in as a union member. In the current term, I am the youth representative for PUBEU. Hopefully, I can continue to engage and encourage more youth to join.


What challenges lie ahead for young workers today and in the future, and how is PUBEU and Young NTUC helping?

Future challenges are family planning, cost of living and digitalisation. With the rise in the cost of living, young couples would both need to work to counter the rising cost. Also, young adults nowadays are more career-focused and -oriented, and family planning becomes secondary. This may also be due to the cost and lack of support in taking care of the children while both couples are busy working. PUBEU and Young NTUC can help by preparing the younger workers to plan for their finances, and family planning through talks and seminars. Parents could even be engaged to bring their teenagers together in such talks and events, which can be instilled much earlier when youths are still in schools.


What do you consider the key challenges for PUBEU in the next three to five years?

The key challenges will be to get more dedicated young unionists, and more females union leaders, with the right attitudes to volunteer their time in union work. The union could do more to engage young members by hosting interactive activities, expose them to union work, and get them to attend the union’s sub-committee meetings and also expose them to other young unionists. In August 2017, there was an inter-union exchange programme comprising SURAWU (Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority Workers’ Union), HDBSU (Housing and Development Board Staff Union), IRASSU (Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore Staff Union) and PUBEU exco members. The exchange programme was to cross-share ideas and best practices and surface the challenges each union faced. The unions were also able to explore areas where they can collaborate with each other.