NTUC Immediate Past President Mary Liew receives top honours at May Day Awards 2024

She is conferred the Distinguished Service (Star) for her profound impact on advancing the rights and welfare of workers.

By Ian Tan Hanhonn 10 May 2024
MDA2024_IPP Mary Receiving the Distinguished Service (Star) Award 1280.jpg

NTUC Immediate Past President Mary Liew was conferred the Distinguished Service (Star) at this year’s May Day Awards on 10 May 2024 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.


The award honours her dedication and profound impact on advancing the rights and welfare of workers for the last 40 over years.


In an exclusive interview with LabourBeat, Ms Liew said she was deeply humbled to be recognised for her work and added that the award is dedicated to all who have made the journey with her over the years.


“It is really about the leaders, about the members, and about our workers. Because to us, every worker matters.,” she said.


Ms Liew was NTUC President for two terms, from 2015 to 2023, before handing over the reins to NTUC President K Thanaletchimi on 23 November 2023.


She is currently still the General Secretary of the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union (SMOU) and a Board Director of NTUC Enterprise Co-operative.


A career dedicated to uplifting workers


Ms Liew joined SMOU in 1982 and became the union’s first female Executive Secretary in 1999.


Her early years in the Labour Movement, however, were fraught with challenges. She shared that she had to make extra effort to break through gender stereotypes, advocating for equal opportunities and representation, and navigating male-dominated work environments.


But through her efforts to foster trust and credibility amongst her peers, she managed to overcome these challenges.


“For me, it is important to have a mindset of meritocracy, where trust must be earned and it is not an entitlement,” she said.


Her advocacy extended across diverse worker groups. Her instrumental role in the National Wages Council secured better wages for lower-income workers, while her work in the NTUC Women’s Committee paved the way for women returning to work and advocated for issues such as flexible work arrangements and work-life balance.


On the national level, Ms Liew’s influence resonated through advisory roles for the Future Economy Council and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices. Her contributions have been instrumental in shaping policies aimed at enhancing worker rights and welfare within Singapore.


Her influence also extended beyond Singapore’s shores. Her roles as an International Deputy Member of the Workers’ Group in the International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Board and Vice-President of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) showcased her commitment to advancing workers’ rights on an international scale.


Ms Thanaletchimi shared that Ms Liew’s unwavering dedication and leadership is cause for celebration and recognition.


“Her wisdom and compassion inspire future leaders, and her legacy encourages us to strive for better wages and work prospects for all,” said Ms Thanaletchimi


A record-breaking May Day


This year’s NTUC May Day Awards honoured 179 awardees, the highest number of awardees the NTUC’s history.


Some 42 organisations will receive awards under the Plaque of Commendation (Star), the Plaque of Commendation (Gold), the Plaque of Commendation, and the Partner of Labour Movement categories.


Meanwhile, some 137 individuals from public and private sectors will also be honoured for championing workers' interests.


Over 1,500 guests attended the ceremony. It was hosted by Ms Thanaletchimi and NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng.


This year’s awards ceremony was themed ‘In Solidarity, We Take Action Because We Care’.


NTUC shared that this year’s awardees have demonstrated care for workers by initiating meaningful changes even in times of uncertainty.


The complete list of awardees can be found here.