18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
Woman Of Steel

A team of hidden heroes often seen working beyond the 42-hour call of duty, form the backbone of unions. They are champions of decent work for all collars, negotiators of retrenchment, enhancers of workers’ well-being, points of contact for workplace grievances and more.

They are your friendly neighbourhood Industrial Relations Officers (IROs) at NTUC and Ong Kai Yan is one of them seconded to the Chemical Industries Employees' Union’s (CIEU).

A Fireball at Work
Every day in the life of Kai Yan as an IRO is different and that includes standing outside a non-unionised company and trying to unionise it by convincing strangers (its employees) to join the union. It started with a letter from a staff of the company addressed to Diana Chia, President of NTUC indicating interest in forming a union. The letter was eventually forwarded to a relevant industrial union i.e. CIEU.

In a pleasant surprise, the company’s Managing Director (MD) was open to the idea of unionisation after learning that the union could partner management by helping to enhance its employees’ welfare such as in organising Family Day. It can also facilitate employee skill-upgrading and training funds.

The efforts of Kai Yan and her team in unionising the new company paid off. A new branch was formed, union membership increased and the industry’s bargaining power strengthened.

“Being in CIEU, I have learned the importance of empowerment.” She envisions an effective system to be established that gives everyone in the union the capacity to become more independent.

A Fireball at Play
At the Staff Union of NTUC-ARU (SUN), the youth delegate wishes to take it one step at a time starting with developing more social activities for young members first. In fact it was a sport activity that got her eyeballed into joining SUN. She had previously rallied her own team in a dragonboat competition organised by U Sports. Now she participates in 21km marathons.

With a demonstrated love for sports, Kai Yan aims to push for more sports activities to be carried out to encourage a healthier lifestyle for employees of NTUC.

Growing As a Person
Her job has helped her grow as a person and she attributes this to her mentors. One in particular is Nur Azaruddin Putra Mohamed Jufri, Assistant Executive Secretary of CIEU. “He is someone to listen to and someone who listens. He gives good feedback and is a people builder.”

With a mentor who helps her believe in her own potential, the person Kai Yan is today differs from that of the past. “I used to be timid and could not approach strangers. After becoming an IRO, I became more thick-skinned and daring. I’ve grown to be unafraid of failures and able to think of others before myself.”