18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
Standing up for his colleagues, one at a time

Contributed by Flora Isabelle

Most millenials can’t even last 6 months in a job (especially if isn’t rewarding financially or mentally stimulating or if the conditions aren’t cushy enough… you get the idea) but for 26-year-old Monteiro Mohamad Azhar Abdul Aziz, he has been with Keppel Shipyard for 10 years and counting.

His career with the company started as a 16-year-old apprentice under an Institute of Technical Education (ITE) work and school programme. He graduated from the Keppel Tuas Training Facility and the rest like they say, is history. The company even held the job for him while he completed his National Service.

Being part of the shipyard industry means that Monteiro has to get up at 5am every morning to get to work on time. He is also doing a part-time Diploma in Engineering, Building Service & Fire Safety at Ngee Ann Polytechnic which translates to three classes a week that stretches from 6:30pm to 10:30pm and having to complete assignments after that too.

With little time for sleep, Monteiro is however, actively involved with union work as well. He is currently the vice chairperson of the industrial sector in the Young NTUC Committee and branch official of the Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Employees' Union (SMEEU) despite the workload.  His involvement with union work started in April 2015 when his colleagues had some issues with management regarding safety procedures and were not able to articulate effectively in English, and so, he stepped up to help them. The Branch Secretary of SMEEU noticed his willingness to help his fellow workers and colleagues and approached him. That was Monteiro’s first step into union work and he has never looked back since.

Besides trying to help his colleagues regarding grievance and disciplinary issues, he also enjoys planning activities for everyone to have fun and to bond beyond the workplace. He has organised several actitivites for the Youth Chapter of the Industrial Sector including a teambuilding event which saw them all playing laser tag last year at Plaza Singapura. Moving forward, he is now planning a paintball outing for this year.

“There is so much more to what a union can do for you and NTUC is not just about FairPrice!” he says.

Explaining, he express how Keppel Shipyard has 1000 members and 100 subcontractors yet many do not know what the union does and how it can help them. He feels that more people in Singapore (not just those from his workplace and/or union) should know about the Labour Movement where they can seek help if necessary.

“I recently had this uncle at my workplace who had to be penalised at work because he didn’t understand the safety issues regarding some cables. We managed to speak to HR for him and even got the penalty reduced!”

While safety issues is something definitely not to be compromised in the marine industry, Monteiro feels that job effectiveness can be improved if corrective and preventive actions are taught to workers instead of just penalising them when lapses occur.

“Of course I’m not saying that penalties are not necessary, but I want to try to help them to prevent this from happening again so it will be a win-win situation for both the worker and company.”

He also makes it a point to reach out to colleagues who have been placed on the Performance Improvement Programme to encourage and help them to do better in their work and “pass out” from the programme.

“It’s been a very fulfilling journey so far. And union work is now a very great part of my life, I might have to change jobs one day but I don’t think I’ll ever stop union work.”