To me the Late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a giant. He was a giant beyond just politics and nation-building.
He was the Prime Minister who brought a third-world country to a first-world metropolis of today. But more than that, he went beyond himself to help Singaporeans from all walks of life.
He helped residents from his own Tanjong Pagar GRC when he was elected as their Member of Parliament and he also helped workers after joining Laycock & Ong as a young legal assistant.
The year was 1950, when he began representing the postal workers who wanted better pay and working conditions.
For about two weeks the union went back and forth in pressing against the Commissioner for Posts representing the Colonial Government on the merits of their case.
Public views went towards the unions and because of this, the Colonial Government gave way to higher wages and better terms and conditions of service.
Shortly after this, a number of other unions had asked him to be their adviser.
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) was formed after non-communist unions broke off from the communist-controlled unions, as a result of a split in the People’s Action Party (PAP) in June 1961.
When he entered politics during his first election in 1955, he chose Tanjong Pagar because that was where the postal workers were based.
He shared all these at the NTUC 50th Anniversary Dinner in 2011 and added that he continued to maintain relationships with the unions when he became Prime Minister, remaining mindful of the interests of workers and their unions.
In fact, if it was not for him, Singapore would have never had the Tripartite approach which it prides itself upon as the first country in the world to have such a system.
As a Singaporean worker myself, I think we have much to thank Mr Lee for. If not for the hard work of him and his team, we wouldn’t have the variety of industries and jobs that we have today.
We have industrial peace today because he laid the ground and paved the way for it.
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