The late G. Muthukumarasamy, affectionately referred to as Brother Kumar, was a veteran trade unionist who served in the Union of Public Daily Rated Workers (AUDPRW) for a good 27 years, and served as its General Secretary from 2002 until his passing on 29 November 2019. 27 years. How many of us can stay committed to our cause for almost 3 decades?
For Brother Kumar, he always had a goal in mind – which was for all daily wage workers to be converted to monthly wage workers. This goal guided his passion for union work. Despite being unwell for some time before his passing, Brother Kumar did not stop his work in the union. While Brother Kumar has left, his legacies and contributions towards the labour movement live on. He is remembered as a kind and caring brother to workers.
Brother Kumar’s Legacies
Just recently, up to about 450 daily-rated workers in the National Environment Agency (NEA) were converted to monthly-rated workers as a result of unwavering efforts put in by the labour movement, in particular, the AUPDRW which the late Brother Kumar was part of. This effort would not be possible without the idea and effort from Brother Kumar, who raised this idea back in 2018. These converted workers will retain their existing benefits and further enjoy salary progression as a result of the conversion. Other than salary progression, these workers will have an opportunity to enjoy higher performance bonus, mid-year and year-end bonus as a result of a higher monthly salary. NEA has further positively reaffirmed its commitment with the AUPDRW that more daily-rated workers will be converted to monthly workers.
A Firm Believer of Upskilling
This recent achievement was just one of Brother Kumar’s many legacies. Brother Kumar firmly believed that training and upskilling was key to securing better employment and better lives for workers. The National Skills Recognition System introduced in 2000 extended an opportunity for workers to upgrade themselves. Brother Kumar took this opportunity to persuade daily rated workers to seize the opportunity to improve themselves and their lives. When workers found it apprehensive or reluctant to attend classes, Brother Kumar explored ways to navigate through the difficulties, working with companies to incentivise successful upskilling.
In 2008, Brother Kumar engaged with NEA to implement a job redesign effort for cleaners. With the successful implementation, the cleaners under NEA enjoyed wage increases of 20 percent and above after improving their soft and technical skills under the Workforce Skills Qualifications course in Environmental Services.
A Heart for Workers, An Exemplary Leader and Brother to Those Under His Care
Apart from pushing for structural changes, Brother Kumar was also deeply attentive to the welfare of the workers under AUPDRW. He sought successfully to introduce benefits such as bursaries for union members’ children and funeral funding support for union members who have passed on.
Brother Kumar was an exemplary leader and brother to those under his care. He lived and led by example – when he joined AUPDRW in 1992, he actively upskilled and became a senior electrician within a few years. His active and substantial contributions in AUPDRW saw him rose quickly through the ranks. Brother Kumar has shown that through upskilling, passion and perseverance, the sky is the limit.