One month into his job as an Industrial Relations Officer (IRO), Jeremy Joash Jones found himself face to face with an unprecedented crisis that saw countries around the world imposing lockdowns.
The SMOU Industrial Relations (IR) team went into overdrive to respond to the plight of seafarers who were caught in the crew change predicament brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak.
It was in such a time as this that Jeremy found his calling as he was thrown into the deep end.
“I joined SMOU on 2 February 2020 as the youngest member of the IR team. I had zero knowledge of the maritime industry,” said the 28 year old Jeremy. When he received a distressed call from a seafarer at 3am one morning, he was “most stressed”.
“The seafarer sounded depressed, desperate and wanted to end his life. The ports were closed and he couldn’t repatriate,” he recounted.
Jeremy instinctively responded by offering a listening ear and bringing hope to the seafarer. Jeremy’s words of comfort made all the difference to ease his anxiety. One week later, he was repatriated back to his home country to be with his wife and children.
“The seafarer emailed to thank SMOU for the help rendered. I have never experienced such joy for helping someone in need,” said Jeremy. That joy sealed it for him. “This is my first full time job and I am going to be in this for a long time to come.”
After graduating with a degree in communications and public relations, Jeremy had short stints organising events for the Ministry of Communications and Information and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The reason why I studied communications is to be the bridge that connects people and the vessel that brings help,” said Jeremy. And the job of an IRO fits the bill.
As an IRO, Jeremy involves himself with shipping companies and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in virtual IR kopi sessions and online talks. The tripartite engagement has been crucial during this period to communicate efforts on crew change during the pandemic. Beyond that, his first collective bargaining experience was one with the management of Evergas Ship Management Pte Ltd; a negotiation process that went on smoothly.
The good labour-management relationship is a far cry from the experience his father had when he was on the management team of a company based in Southeast Asia. His father had to deal with somewhat militant unions which delivered physical threats to hurt him if he did not comply with the unions’ demands.
Yet when it came to supporting Jeremy on his career choice, his father did not bat an eyelid. “He is aware of the harmonious industrial relations climate in Singapore. He also saw how happy I am to be going to work each day,” Jeremy pointed out.
The Young SMOU member also takes delight in distributing festive and care packs to seafarers; participating in SMOU caring and sharing events with Henderson Home residents, Jalan Besar community, and My First Skool kids. He too looks forward to take on heartwarming initiatives to assist SMOU members.
After all, the strong community spirit runs deep in his heart. After office hours, if he is not working out in the gym, Jeremy can be found hanging out with a group of young adults in his residential neighbourhood.
Jeremy elaborated: “A few of my friends and I formed a group to connect with the younger generation. The group grew from 5 to 40 guys now. We play football, share information on part time jobs, and basically speak life to each other. It is like peer mentoring. Though some have moved out of the neighbourhood, the ties remained strong.”
There is one more interesting fact about Jeremy. He acts. SMOU has a celebrity in its midst? “I only appeared in one episode of Medicorp Vasantham programme where I acted as a handicapped husband on a wheelchair,” Jeremy quickly added.
Whether at work and in his free time, Jeremy is driven by purpose and people. “Every day is a new experience. And I am loving it,” Jeremy concluded.