Former NTUC Secretary-General Steve Nayagan Passes On

His involvement with the Labour Movement goes back to the late 1950s when he was with the Singapore Printing Employees’ Union.
By Shukry Rashid 23 Dec 2022

Pioneer unionist and former NTUC Secretary-General Steve Nayagan passed away on 15 December 2022 in Perth, Western Australia. He was 96 years old.

He is survived by his wife, three daughters and grandson.

Mr Steve Nayagan (second from right) during a nuclear disarmament conference in 1965 organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

Mr Steve Nayagan (second from right) during a nuclear disarmament conference in 1965 organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

NTUC Career

Mr Nayagan began his trade union career in 1959 as an executive committee member in the Singapore Printing Employees’ Union. He later became the union’s assistant secretary from 1961 to 1963.

He was seconded to NTUC in 1964 and elected deputy secretary-general in October 1965. 

Mr Nayagan became NTUC Secretary-General in November 1965, succeeding CV Devan Nair. He remained as secretary-general until the end of the term in 1966.

During May Day Rally 1966, following Singapore’s independence a year earlier, Mr Nayagan said that NTUC had more responsibilities with the coming of nationhood and that it was aware of the change and increased responsibility.

After stepping down as secretary-general, Mr Nayagan remained active in the NTUC Central Committee. 

Mr Nayagan was also a lecturer for NTUC’s leadership training courses.

He ensured that union leaders and industrial relations officers were proficient in managing and handling industrial disputes.

He also held various posts within the Labour Movement during his career with NTUC. He represented NTUC as a board member of the Jurong Town Corporation at its inception, and was director of NTUC Fairdeal and secretary of NTUC Denticare Board of Trustees/Directors.

In 1979, he was accorded the NTUC Long Service Award for 16 years of service.


In a condolence letter to Mr Nayagan’s family, NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng and President Mary Liew paid tribute to the late leader.

They said: “Brother Steve had devoted himself to advancing workers’ interests, especially during the early days of Singapore’s independence.

“It was a period of change and uncertainty, but he was determined to protect the rights of workers, while keeping them informed of the important aspects of Singapore’s future.”

Mr Ng and Ms Liew added that Mr Nayagan is the exemplar of a great leader, whose contributions and legacy will live on and continue to inspire for years to come.

“His tenacity and selflessness will be remembered for many generations. Brother Steve will be deeply missed by all in the Labour Movement,” they said in the letter.