18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
Gunning For A Game Change

Dunking hoops and throwing hooks, Jack Heng is an enthusiast of basketball and bowling, nominated sportsman for the year as well as sports rep in the U Games. His ardour for sports led him to join the DBS Staff Union (DBSSU). “I thought why not, it’s an opportunity to serve others for a good cause… the union actually does a lot more than what others see from the outside,” quipped Jack.

Global Exchanges
Fast forward 6 years in the union, of which 3 had been as an exco member; Jack had gained exposure to international union conferences; exchanging experiences with union leaders from other countries and understanding issues faced by financial industries worldwide.

“I began to appreciate what we have in Singapore as compared to countries like Japan where the population is aging and there is no CPF. In fact, we are lucky to have a stable banking industry here whereas places like Europe, bank employees don’t like to say that they work in banks because of an unstable, government-reliant financial market.”

Reimagining Unions
His stint as a rep of Young NTUC had given him the opportunity to attend roundtable dialogue sessions, where he had raised a point: The trade union movement has been ongoing for the last 40 years. Days of rampant strikes and high unemployment rates have gone by. Today, unionism has evolved to a different ball game.

In banks, he observed that PMEs make up almost half the workforce and this might increase further in the future. With this trend in mind, Jack voiced a concern on unions keeping up with the changing profile of the workforce today.

Young adults tend to be individualistic in relation to other generations and tend to solve their workplace issues independently. If membership is to increase to strengthen unions, then more relevant benefits or services should be provided for PMEs.       

A Value Proposition
“We should focus on understanding what PMEs need from us and gun for a change in values,” said the level-headed union leader suggesting to change the game through value propositioning. Steps have already been taken in that direction:

  • Educating young adults about their rights at the workplace
  • Being a forward thinking union that changes the future and involves youths
  • Establishing youth programmes that reach out to them

But Jack feels more discussion is needed and advocates change. Youths have always been the driving force of social change. “[They] bring in novel perspectives and are inclined to voice out their opinions. These are positive attributes we should tap more on.” He added, “Change is good. And if it solves problems and improves situations, we should continue doing so.”