Speech at MOM National Day Observance Ceremony 2018
Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, NTUC Auditorium
Sister Mary Liew, President of NTUC
Brother Sec-Gen Ng Chee Meng
Brother Robert Yap, President of SNEF
My parliamentary colleagues
Brothers and Sisters from our tripartite partners – NTUC/e2i, SNEF
Friends from SBF and Kinderland
- Thank you all for making time to join our annual National Day Observance Ceremony.
- In May, I gave my maiden speech as Manpower Minister at our Workplan Seminar.
- If you recall, I spoke on “Tripartism in an Age of Disruption” and outlined the four key commitments needed to strengthen tripartism
i. Shared ownership of the future
ii. Shared values to underpin our actions
iii. Shared vision of an inclusive workforce and more progressive workplaces
iv. Shared resources to address fresh challenges
- Today, as we mark our nation’s 53rd anniversary of independence, I want to specially thank our tripartite partners for your strong support and commitment to the three key initiatives I announced:
a. Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers
b. Government’s support for NTUC’s Enhanced Inclusive Growth Programme to uplift Low-Wage Workers
c. Partnership with SNEF to roll out SkillsFuture for Enterprises to deepen capabilities for HC development
- All three initiatives are making steady progress and are further examples of how tripartism contributes to nation-building.
- Today, I hope you will bear with me as I shift the focus onto a special group of workers. Who am I talking about?
- In every ministry, there is a post known as the “QSM” – Quality Service Manager. In MOM, the QSM heads our Customer Responsiveness Department, which basically makes sure our services to the public are up to mark. Who provides these services? Our frontline customer service officers do. They are rarely in the news, but in fact, they are critical touch points between MOM and the public.
- Every day, MOM receives more than 500 emails from the public. More than 3,000 people visit our services centres. More than 5,000 people call to make enquiries. That’s more than 1.5 million phone calls a year!
- Our staff have to assess the urgency and severity of the issues, re-direct to whoever is in the best position to follow up, and make sure there is proper closure with the member of public who raised the matter.
- Increasingly, the issues cut across departments, and sometimes ministries. Coordination has become more complex. This can be frustrating for the workers or employers who raised the matter.
- Our staff can often feel their anxiety, and are sometimes on the receiving end of their anger, even as we try our best to help. Manpower Planning and Policy Division and Workplaces Policy and Strategy Division are scolded for both being too rigid and too lax on the same foreign worker policy. Labour Relations and Workplaces Division, Occupational Safety and Health Division, Foreign Manpower Management Division, Work Pass Division, TAFEP and TADM often deal with heart-wrenching cases.
- The weight of public duty is not only felt in MOM. Between CPFB and WSG, staff handled more than 750,000 calls last year. More than one million people were served at our physical centres and through online channels.
- What keeps our frontline colleagues awake at night? This is what Raymond Tan, our QSM told me:
a. One, they worry they are not acting fast enough for each and every case. They are keenly aware that everyone would like their case to be prioritised and it falls on them to make a judgement.
b. Two, they worry about having missed out on closing the loop with anyone. This can happen, for example, if there was a network disruption that resulted in some unsuccessful e-services transactions.
- I know our staff are working hard to improve our responsiveness by continually upgrading our systems and processes. Keep up these efforts!
- This National Day, I want to pay tribute to all our colleagues in the MOM Family who work at the frontlines. Why?
- National Day is about our nation’s collective achievements, the things that make us proud to call ourselves Singaporeans. Yet it is also about our service to each other, the things that make us feel that someone cares. For people who have sought help from the MOM Family, our staff at the frontline are often that person.
- Therefore, perhaps the best way for me to pay tribute to you is to share the letters and notes of appreciation from the people whose lives you touched with your service.
- Many of them are ordinary workers, both local and foreign.
- An acquaintance of three warehouse clerks who were owed overtime pay by their employer emailed their thanks to David Wong, a Senior Investigation Officer. Although the amount recovered was not very large (under $3,000), it represented more than 100 hours away from family for these workers. More importantly, they and their colleagues now enjoy overtime pay when previously they did not.
- One Special Pass Holder, a “Mr Chandra”, had been assisting with a case under investigation. Just before he was due to go home, “Mr Chandra” told Transit Management Officer Sumayyah that there was some outstanding ex-gratia payment from the insurer. “Mr Chandra” wrote in to say:
“Mdm Sumayyah has helped me a lot of times, such as calling the insurance many times so that I can get the money fast because my family member is sick and I must go back to my country fast. Many of my brothers also get Madam's help. Thank you!”
- Besides workers, we also have appreciative employers and even employment agencies.
- “Ms Low” managed a relatively new start-up when she was diagnosed with an ailment. She was very thankful that Kelvin Seah, Senior Manager in Customer Operations came to know about her situation and made an extra effort to resolve a quota issue quickly. She emailed Kelvin gratefully and said,
“As I write, I have just gone through the surgery successfully at TTSH …. I am glad MOM was able to attend to matters on urgent basis and with compassionate heart without compromising your service standard.”
- Employment agent Alexis finally succeeded in finding a FDW for a client who did not quite meet the hiring criteria. She says of Abby Wong, also a Senior Manager in Customer Operations,
“Mdm Wong has nothing to gain as this is just one of her many cases she deals with each day- but I can feel her sincere empathy for the client and her dedication in her work (sometimes she calls me past 5pm). She also took the effort to teach and guide me on some of the things an agent can use via the MOM website so that I will be a better agent in the future. I am compelled to write in to express my sincere thanks to her.”
- One of the companies we placed on the Fair Consideration Framework Watchlist wrote to thank Alice Teo-Ang, a Senior Consultant at TAFEP. They said,
“We are sincerely appreciative of the assistance that we have received from TAFEP and MOM and all of the organisations such as WSG, SNEF and e2i. All of the above entities have helped us place new candidates that we may not have been able to source otherwise. We can most certainly see that you are not working against employers – but rather with employers to develop a stronger local workforce ."
"I am pleased to report the following: 67% growth of our Local Workforce in a period of only 3 months. A significant number of these positions have been filled due to the multiple platforms given to us by the organisations associated with TAFEP.”
- Our stat boards make a difference daily too. CPF Board received such an email.
“My name is ‘Mdm Chua’, wife of late ‘Mr Gan’ who had passed recently. I was shocked to receive NUH billings with no deduction from my husband's Medisave account. Not only I had to cope with my lost and grief, the hefty bills stressed me further. Ms Tan Mei Peng called me to offer assistance during this difficult time. I recalled not talking to her nicely. In fact, I was shouting over the phone. Mei Peng did not take offence, she calmly and patiently told me what she intended to do for me. I felt she understood my emotions then and I could trust her as I could feel her sincerity. She assured me she would personally liaise with Public Trustee and NUH to resolve the payment issue. I could reach Mei Peng whenever I received billings reminder from NUH. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Mei Peng on behalf of my late husband and my 2 young sons. ‘Mrs Gan’.”
- Mr Sukumaran Palaiyah who experienced six months of unemployment, wrote to me as follows:
“Dear Minister, I began looking for a job in August 2017 and attended Job fairs, seminars…. I could not find the right organization to guide me in my job search and was frustrated. Then I got connected with WSG… In the first meeting I could see the organization and Patrick See (a Career Coach at Lifelong Learning Institute) helping to guide me for employability. ….
We focused on practical approach and searched for managerial jobs where the company will consider employing me, a 57 year old. At that point, I realized that WSG has established a framework where they understand the job seekers' and employers' needs and find career placement for job seekers accordingly. Patrick gave me constructive feedback to improve my LinkedIn profile and resume.
He provided tips for networking and an awesome guide to prepare for interview. He coached me as a professional and as a friend!
I am glad to have the opportunity to get connected with WSG and having Patrick See as my coach. Without a doubt, I would recommend WSG to anyone who needs help during a career transition.”
- Friends and colleagues, tomorrow morning, when you flip the newspapers, you will see the list of National Day Award recipients including many within the MOM Family. Congratulations to all of them!
- In fact, we have many more “winners”. These are our staff at the frontlines whose services to the public go beyond what professionalism demands. It happens when they put heart and soul into helping workers, and employers and CPF members, to get their issues resolved.
- As your Minister, I’m very proud of your service excellence. As a fellow citizen, I’m very touched by your care and concern. I’m sure our tripartite partners feel the same way too.
- As we mark our 53rd National Day, let us all in the MOM Family continue to serve with our hearts. And always keep in mind, that improving our services to the public is a never-ending journey, just as the work of nation-building can never be done!
- Happy National Day!