Down but Not Out, Thanks to the Labour Movement

Story and photos by Shukry Rashid

When 48-year-old Wong Yoke Soon was told his job was going to be made redundant last year, the first thing he thought of was his family.

“As the sole breadwinner, I felt like I’ve let down my seven family members at home. I thought to myself, how do I support them from now?”

He had been made redundant last year. The fact that there was an increasing long-term unemployment number for professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) did not help.

His situation: brother afflicted with severe down syndrome; mother paralysed after suffering from a stroke in 2003; and two young school-going children. With over 15 years of experience in human resource, he was redeployed to another role in quality and compliance. Unfortunately, the new role did not suit him and he left the company.

Luckily for Mr Wong, he was a Chemical Industries Employees' Union member. He approached his union, which then referred him to NTUC’s U PME Centre for job placement assistance.

Uncertainties and Desperation

During the first four of the six months he was unemployed, he went to seven job fairs and 35 interviews.
He was prepared to take on any job and even considered an allied educator’s role which paid $4,000 a month, a far cry from the $13,000 he used to earn a month in his previous company.

“I thought to myself that if I get this job, I would not be able to sustain my family. I considered taking another part-time job – lecturing or something. That was the worst case scenario,” he shared.

Even after going through all the lengths, Yoke Soon was told he was over-qualified for the job.

Morale Booster

Enter U PME Career Consultant Herjeet Singh (above, right), who gave Yoke Soon career advice – from tweaking his resume and LinkedIn profile to morale support. Herjeet also referred Yoke Soon to NTUC’s e2i’s (Employment and Employability Institute) executive workshops, which taught him how to improve his employability.

“Herjeet and the trainers gave me a strong foundation to mentally survive and be resilient during my unemployment. They also frequently called me to motivate me. Every time I wanted to give up, I’d get all these phone calls, and that gave me the boost again.

“They were very assertive. They told me to look at myself in the mirror and say: ‘You have to respect yourself before anyone else can respect you,’” he said.

In April this year, he finally secured a job, one which suited his qualifications and experience. He only took a 10 per cent pay cut in his new role.




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