By Sng Ler Jun
By now, you would come to know of the unions’ effort to uplift the lives of Singaporean workers. With changing workforce demographics over the years, the unions have worked tirelessly to fight for their members’ rights.
There are some co-operatives that are born out of unions, including AUPE Credit Co-operative (ACC) which was founded by Amalgamated Union of Public Employees (AUPE) in 1965, and these co-operatives continue to champion for members of the unions, should they choose to join them.
In an exclusive interview with ACC’s Yeo Chun Fing, also SNCF’s deputy chairman, and Sanjeev Tiwari who is ACC’s chief executive officer, we uncover what it takes to be a leader in a co-operative and what it means for a leader to learn to let go.
Sng Ler Jun: Take me through your career highlights when you join AUPE, ACC and NTUC?
Yeo Chun Fing: In 1986, I became a union leader at AUPE. I was 29 then. I was elected to the Board of ACC in 1992. Then in 2015, I was elected as the General Secretary at AUPE and was the Assistant Secretary for Financial Affairs at NTUC. I was also elected as the Chairman for ACC in the same year.
What’s the difference between the union and the co-op? What sets ACC different from the other credit co-operatives?
CF: The union looks after the interests and rights of working people as wage earners while the co-op protects the interests and rights of such wage earners as consumers. ACC serves the members of AUPE and others in the public sector, helping them to save for future needs, lending affordably to those in need and ensures that public servants do not suffer financial embarrassment.
What has been the most memorable moment throughout your career at a co-operative?
CF: When we were growing our membership, when we gave out more loans, when we had a lot of people putting their money with us, and when we helped public servants tide through their financial troubles. In times of crisis, people saw and still see us as a safe haven.
What sort of leader are you?
CF: I have never thought about it. I never see myself as a leader. At every juncture, I just wanted to do my best.
What do you believe best motivates employees?
CF: The employee must first feel that they are trusted and given room to deliver. In the instances where they fall short–we are human beings; we sometimes do fall short–give them the assurances that they will be protected.
How long have you been working with SNCF? What will you miss when you step down from the board later this year?
CF: I have been here for four terms, coming to a full 12 years. I am grateful to see different colleagues support affiliates with their needs and to strive for the co-op movement in Singapore. I enjoy those moments interacting with them. It’s not that I want to leave but I think organisations need to have renewal. It’s going to be refreshing to see what the new generation can offer us.
Let’s talk about organisational renewal. Would you have any tips for other co-operatives looking to you when preparing for organisational renewal?
CF: I have four short points.
Firstly, understand that nobody is irreplaceable. There is this Chinese proverb about how the sunset is charming, only that it is near dusk. If you are someone who has served an organisation for 20 to 30 years, you are at the point of success with many achievements or praises, but you may have inevitably fallen into a delusion that no one can do the job better than you can.
Secondly, I think you must be willing to give others a chance. There are people in the organisation who want to try new things but dare not say because you are there...
Read more in SNCF upcoming print newsletter (out on May 23).
Image Credits: Akif Keith