18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
Staying Connected to the Ground

Story by Ramesh Subbaraman, NTUC This Week
Photo by Jonathan Tan, NTUC This Week

You may have unknowingly spoken to her over the phone on one of those occasions when things go wrong with the internet connection and the movies black out.

Meet 31-year-old Singtel Team Leader Priyalata Pillay, who is one of the many voices behind the phone taking care of your issues.

For Priyalata, volunteering in union work has always been an extension of the listening ear she provides to irate customers.

She likes to listen in on what unions are doing to help workers so that she can recommend fresh ideas to colleagues at the Union of Telecoms Employees of Singapore (UTES).

Priyalata has been a UTES member for the past three years.

Journey in Young NTUC

However, she is relatively new in Young NTUC, having joined in February 2017.

One of her first events was the Young NTUC Workplan Seminar at Ho Chi Minh City in March 2017.

“I met many young union leaders and found out how they dealt with members’ issues, especially grievances. The trip also gave me a chance to understand Singapore’s role in regional development and how one can prepare for the opportunities in the future,” she shared.

On the ground, volunteering has got her closer to low-income families and the youth.

While she got to know their needs, it also gave her the chance to reach out to them to join the union movement.

“Volunteering is for no financial gain but to the benefit another person or organisation. It also develops skills and improves the quality of life. I am very fortunate that I have a very fulfilled life, a good job, a great family and friends. I think that in the current world where a lot of emphasis is put on money, career and status, there is a risk that people can become totally self-absorbed and uncaring.  

“Volunteering for me is an opportunity to give something back to society and a way of sharing with others. I wish to help more low income-families and elderly and I hope Young NTUC will incorporate more volunteer work for people like me to do so,” said Priyalata.

Concern For Younger Workers

She also has a few worries for the younger generation of workers.

She shared that those who are not prepared for the future job market have only themselves to blame.

“It is bad news for those who are unprepared for the future and do not update themselves to stay relevant. We need to upgrade our skills every now and then to stay relevant.

“We can attend courses to stay updated. As union members, we can make use of the Union Training Assistant Programme (UTAP) to fund the courses,” said Priyalata.