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NTUC Confers Top May Day Award On Former President Mary Liew

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10 May 2024
MDA2024_IPP Mary Receiving the Distinguished Service (Star) Award.jpg
Model ID: 2b807555-724b-4dda-89ca-0918c182fb99 Sitecore Context Id: 2b807555-724b-4dda-89ca-0918c182fb99;

~ Record number of 179 awardees honoured at NTUC May Day Awards 2024 ~


Ms Mary Liew, Immediate Past President of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and General Secretary of the Singapore Maritime Officers Union (SMOU), was conferred the Distinguished Service (Star) – this year’s top May Day Award, at the NTUC May Day Awards 2024 ceremony today. Hosted by NTUC President K Thanaletchimi and Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng, this year’s May Day Awards ceremony brought together close to 1,500 esteemed guests, including awardees, their families, colleagues, friends and tripartite partners.

Held at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, the NTUC May Day Awards 2024 honoured 179 awardees, reaching a new milestone with the highest number of awardees in its history1. The May Day Awards 2024 recognised outstanding union leaders, tripartite partners, workers, and organisations for their exemplary contributions to the Labour Movement; and for their steadfast care and commitment in taking action to champion the rights and interests of all workers.

Longstanding Champion of Workers’ Rights and Labour Movement Leader

This year, the Distinguished Service (Star) award was conferred on Ms Mary Liew for her outstanding dedication and profound impact on advancing the rights and welfare of workers throughout her distinguished four-decade career. Having joined the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union (SMOU) in 1982, she became its first female Executive Secretary in 1999. In 2011, she was elected into the NTUC Central Committee and was selected to be a Nominated Member of Parliament from 2012 to 2014, culminating in her presidency of the NTUC Central Committee from 2015 to 2023.

Recognised as a unifying force within the Labour Movement, Ms Liew spearheaded initiatives that underscored the vital role of unions in supporting worker groups and strengthening Singapore’s workers compact. Her advocacy extended across diverse worker groups, including women workers and lower-wage workers, with a special focus on the Maritime industry.

Ms Liew also played an instrumental role in the National Wages Council, securing higher wages that benefitted lower-wage workers, alongside her efforts in championing workplace fairness, career progression, and enhanced protection for workers. She was an integral part of the NTUC Women’s Committee, supporting women returning to work and championing for women workers in areas such as flexible work arrangements, gender pay gap, and work-life harmony. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Liew's leadership was instrumental in ensuring recognition and support of seafarers as essential workers. Under her stewardship, SMOU's membership surged from 3,400 in the 1980s to over 32,000 today.

At the national level, Ms. Liew played key advisory roles for the Future Economy Council and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, making significant contributions to enhancing worker rights and welfare within Singapore. Her impact extends globally, serving as an International Deputy Member of the Workers' Group in the International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Board and as Vice-President of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF). These roles highlighted her steadfast commitment to advancing workers’ rights and welfare on both the local and international levels.

President Thanaletchimi said, "Sister Mary is celebrated today for her unwavering dedication and leadership. She prioritises the welfare of workers with passion and determination. Her wisdom and compassion inspire future leaders, and her legacy encourages us to strive for better wages and work prospects for all.”

She added, “I also extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the awardees of the May Day Awards 2024, whose commitment and care greatly contribute to the welfare and interests of workers. Together, let us continue to uphold and strengthen Singapore’s tripartite model, fostering collaboration for a win-win outcome, so that our workers can have better wages, welfare, and work prospects because #EveryWorkerMatters."

In an interview with NTUC’s LabourBeat, Ms Mary Liew shared her thoughts on receiving the Distinguished Service (Star) at NTUC May Day Awards 2024. She said, “I am deeply honoured to receive the highest honour for this year’s May Day…and it is genuinely humbling to be recognised in this manner. This award is not for me but all who have made this incredible journey with me.”

Please see Annex A for Ms. Mary Liew’s interview with LabourBeat.

Recognising Individuals and Organisations for Their Contributions to the Labour Movement and Proactive Care for Workers

At the NTUC May Day Awards 2024 ceremony, SG Ng presented a total of 137 awards to individuals and 42 awards to organisations. Embodying this year’s theme, “In Solidarity, We Take Action Because We Care”, this year's awardees have demonstrated care for workers by initiating meaningful changes even in times of uncertainty, committing to improving wages, work prospects, and welfare. For example, among the awardees2 :

a) Our union leaders have shown their dedication to advocating for workers’ interests. actively engaging with workers, listening to and understanding their concerns, and working closely with the company management to address these issues while securing better working conditions and benefits.

b) Our workers have truly embraced the spirit of Workers 4.0, showcasing exceptional resilience and adaptability in navigating the evolving landscape of today's workforce. Their commitment to continuous learning and skills development has been crucial in ensuring they remain competitive and relevant amid ongoing industry and business transformations.

c) In the face of the volatile business landscape, our management partners and organisations3 have steadfastly upheld the principles of tripartism. Recognising that workers are at the heart of their operations, they have actively collaborated with the unions, balancing business needs with a strong commitment to supporting their workforce and enhancing workers’ employability. Moreover, these partners have embraced workplace transformations through Company Training Committees (CTCs) and championed skills upgrading, ensuring that employees not only stay relevant but also future-proof themselves.

Please see Annex B for Ms Mary Liew’s NTUC May Day Awards 2024 Awards Citation.

1NTUC May Day Awards started in 1963.
2Refer to the list of 137 individual awardees at:
3Refer to the list of 42 organisation awardees at: