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By Mervin Kok
Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union

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ome 50 women unionists from transport sectors across the world gathered in Singapore to share and exchange ideas on improving workplace welfare and the employment of the women workforce in global transportation. The two-day meeting was organised by the Women’s Committee from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) on 5-6 December 2011 and saw representatives from more than 25 countries. In her message as Guest-of-Honour at the opening, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Madam Halimah Yacob shared the progress Singapore has made in creating gender equality at the workplace and also in getting women back into the workforce. She said: “The women’s labour force participation in almost all countries has increased, and there has been an increasing trend of women taking up leadership roles especially in Europe where some countries have

SMOU Executive Secretary Mary Liew (left) and MOS Halimah Yacob (second from left) at the ITF Women's Committee Meeting.

ITF Women’s Committee Hold First Meeting In Singapore
introduced quotas to place more women on company boards.” In her dialogue with the international women, Mdm Halimah also shared the challenges women face in trying to balance between family and work life, sharing her experiences as a working mother. She cited the initiatives started by the NTUC Women’s Development Secretariat (WDS), saying that the Women’s Back2Work With U

Programme facilitated Singapore’s women reentry into the workforce in conjunction with skills acquisition so that women can enjoy greater job and income stability. The Women Transport Workers’ Coordinator Ms Alison McGarry said: “We were delighted by the invitation from our Executive Board member Sister Mary Liew to hold the ITF Women's Committee meeting in Singapore - the very first meeting in Asia. It is a learning experience for our sisters and enabled us to meet local women unionists and also brothers from the ITF affiliated unions. “The minister (Mdm Halimah Yacob) impressed the committee members with her understanding of the difficulties facing women workers, from the lack of affordable childcare to violence in the workplace, and we appreciate her ongoing commitment to support women's rights.” Currently, the NTUC WDS has co-operated with 320 companies to help employ some 7,500 women in jobs under the Flexi-Works Funding programme. With the extension of paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 16 weeks and paid childcare leave of six days, women can better handle work and family commitments. Mdm Halimah emphasised: “Through strong partnerships among the people, private and public sectors, women can be fully supported to reach their fullest potential in an environment which helps individuals be the best that they can be.”

St Regis Is First Six-Star Hotel Unionised By FDAWU
By Raven Lee
Principal Industrial Relations Officer, Food, Drinks and Allied Workers’ Union

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ood, Drinks and Allied Workers’ Union (FDAWU) recently returned victorious from a secret ballot after making St Regis the first six-star hotel to be under their belt among the other 56 hotels. The secret ballot was held from 22-24 November 2011 over a total of six sessions starting as early as 7.30 a.m. for the morning sessions. 114 of the 136 voters casted their votes to declare that they are union members, securing an 84 per cent support of the votes cast. This win did not come easy as some six months ago FDAWU had lost the first secret ballot marginally by five votes. This previous secret ballot had only two days and a lesser number of hours covered, and this made it hard for members on leave and on different shifts to come forth to vote.

NTUC ARU staff holding the pamphlets given out and the tissues with a sticker advertisement at St. Regis hotel.

However, the union learnt from the experience and convinced the Ministry of Manpower to increase the hour coverage of the secret ballot. This increased the number of voters by more than a quarter, which proved advantageous to the union. The management and the union also pledged to move forward with this new partnership and aim to draw positively from it. FDAWU already has plans to work with St Regis to improve productivity through the use of IGP, and assist the workers in achieving better jobs through productivity improvements.