18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
Getting the Young Interested in Union Work

By Ramesh Subbaraman

How do you get young public servants interested in what unions in Singapore do, especially when they have other pressing issues to look into such as building their careers and starting a family?

This is an area Muhammad Zuhaili Arof has been spending time on in his capacity as vice chairperson, public sector, Young NTUC.

The 31-year-old assistant manager with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is from the Amalgamated Union of Statutory Board Employees (AUSBE).


The Passion

Some things don’t come naturally to an individual and one of them is getting involved in union work, said Muhammad Zuhaili.

“I always believe in going the extra-mile to help people who are in need in my line of work. Through union work, I am able to reach out to young workers at a personal level.

“Although daunting, I have always taken challenges positively, especially in helping younger workers understand the importance of the union at the work place. As a vice-chairperson of the public sector committee, I have been given the opportunity to become the voice for the public sector,” he added.


The Engagement

Feedback sessions take place on a monthly basis.

The young union members exchange views on the latest topics in the national sphere and address staff welfare matters that needs to be tackled.

Personally, Muhammad Zuhaili has pet subjects he raises with the younger generation. These include training, upskilling and getting workers to tap on their SkillsFuture credit.

“Most of the time we know what SkillsFuture is all about but then we stop at that and people come up with reasons that the current job takes up 90 percent of their time. They want to spend the remaining time that is left with their family.

“I would like to help make younger workers understand the purpose of SkillsFuture,” emphasised Muhammad Zuhaili.


Know Your Rights

Do younger unionists know their rights at the workplace? Or are they familiar with what goes into negotiating a collective agreement?

Muhammad Zuhaili believes Young NTUC plays an active role in public education.

“At Young NTUC, we expose our members to the subject of industrial relations. Our talks and discussions are not just confined to union members.

“Everyone who is interested to find out more about industrial relations and workers interests are welcomed to join in our sessions.

“If I am able to make a change in the lives of Young NTUC members, however small the change may be, I would be very happy,” he shared.