18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
Giving Back in His Own Way

Story by Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat

Describing himself as friendly and outgoing, 32-year-old Alan Yong has always been ready to lend a helping hand, or a listening ear, to colleagues and friends. Beyond his work in NTUC’s Social Media Team, Alan is often involved in organising key events such as the annual SUN Dinner and Dance, as well as getting soccer-mad colleagues together for regular futsal games.

With an affinity for getting people together, it was only natural that he would eventually play a bigger role in the Staff Union of NTUC-ARU (SUN). 

“In my course of work, I get to interact with union leaders and learn how they have been able to help their members. Attending various Young NTUC events also got me more exposed to the role of the union and allowed me to better appreciate the Labour Movement’s role in supporting working people in Singapore. So when Ang Jia Da, the SUN general secretary roped me into SUN, I thought, why not?” said Alan, who was recently elected as youth delegate of NTUC’s house union.

Paying It Forward

A firm believer in paying it forward, Alan has always been one to look at ways to give back to the community. 

“I’ve always wanted to be an industrial relations officer, though I didn’t pursue that as a career option. Having the chance to join SUN and go through the different discussions and negotiations allow me to see what human resources and the union leaders go through,” he shared.

More recently, Alan also played facilitator during a post-Budget 2019 dialogue session between youths and NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng.

“I was glad to have been able to share my Labour Movement knowledge and enrich discussions during the post-Budget 2019 dialogue with fellow youths, such as the career guides from the Youth Career Network, young union leaders and even Young PAP members.

“Having been able to make that difference by sharing the key messages from what our Labour Members of Parliament had mooted in their parliamentary debates was very rewarding,” he added.

A Sense of Purpose

As a unionist, Alan hopes to be the bridge that ensures that his fellow colleagues have a voice that will be heard by management. 

“Union work is about helping make the work environment better for my colleagues and being the voice for our fellow colleagues and supporting them. Human resources may not always have the opportunity to reach out to our members and vice-versa. 

“Our colleagues may not always understand management decisions or their perspectives. This is where I hope to be the bridge between management and the ground. That would be considered a success for me because if there is no communication between human resources and our members, the organisation won’t be able to progress forward,” said Alan.

He added that despite being only a year in as a union leader, he’s been able to find satisfaction in serving his members. 

“Satisfaction comes from the trust you get from your members, especially when they come to you to seek your support in matters that are bothering them, or to share feedback and thoughts,” he explained. 

Particularly for Alan, engaging with fellow youth leaders during Young NTUC events has been an eye-opening experience. 

“I get to move beyond my own social circle to meet and interact with fellow unionists from across a whole range of industries and walks of life. This has exposed me to different perspectives and has been very enriching,” he said. 

Activities such as the U Heart engagements have also been a very effective way of enabling Alan to engage with fellow union members, especially those from units such as NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) who are located in a different office location. 

“What was most memorable was having some of these participants show interest in volunteerism. The U Heart events have been very useful in allowing us to build a community among our members as they find fulfillment in helping the less fortunate in society,” he said.

Reflections

Admittedly, the demands of having to juggle his roles as employee, unionist, friend and father to a young daughter isn’t easy. But for Alan, it all boils down to having the discipline to manage his time properly and plan ahead. 

Regardless of how the future may pan out, it’s been an enriching journey for Alan, and through his ability to serve others as a union leader, he’s been able to find a deeper meaning in his work within NTUC and be an advocate of what the Labour Movement stands for.