Faces of SMOU: Senior IRO Dominic Yong

  • Post published:5 July 2021

“Got water, got job.”

With these words, Dominic Yong’s mother convinced him to drop the idea of  pursuing a career in early childhood education and step into the dynamic world of the maritime industry.

“I feel a little cheated,” the effable Dominic said in jest. “Got children, got job too what.”

“On a serious note, I saw how Singapore was positioning itself to be a global maritime hub and how the industry is an important lifeline. And mother knows best…most of the time.”

Acting on her advice, Dominic took on his first full time job as a trade executive assistant with PIL for 13 months. Due to the financial constraints, he contemplated not pursuing a university degree.

Then an irresistible opportunity came knocking. Dominic chanced upon the MaritimeONE Scholarship sponsored by SMOU. The rest is history.

With the support of SMOU, Dominic graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in maritime business and logistics in Plymouth University in the United Kingdom. Upon his graduation, Dominic joined SMOU in 2015 and is now a senior industrial relations officer with the Union.

“SMOU gave me a university education. I will always be grateful,” he remarked.

Before the scholarship, Dominic confessed that he had no inkling of what the labour movement was. “NTUC was the supermarket I go to for groceries,” he chuckled.  

“Little did I know that NTUC is a national body of trade unions and has such a wide network of social enterprises; each serving a unique purpose to better the welfare of many different groups of people.”

Poring through back issues of SeaVoices, Dominic discovered the good work of SMOU. “I also saw the bigger picture of the workings of tripartism. Many overseas unionists are baffled whenever we talked about Singapore’s tripartite framework. It puzzled them that a country can be both pro-business and pro-worker at the same time.“

Recalling his first encounter engaging a distressed member on his own, Dominic shared the story of how an Indonesian seafarer turned up at Wavelink Building with his luggage in tow after signing off from the bunker barge. He was due to take a ferry back to Batam and the sole bread winner was concerned that he had not been paid.

“All I did was to offer a listening ear and investigate the matter. What I didn’t expect was the seafarer returned one day to personally thank me for looking out for him. It made my day! And yes, he got his pay back.”

Dominic, who is also the Young SMOU (YSMOU) Chairman, goes all out to show care in different ways. His simple yet thoughtful gestures like sending Hari Raya greetings to Muslim seafarers in their respective time zones do not go unnoticed by the members. Another act of kindness is treating YSMOU members serving their stay-home notices during the COVID-19 pandemic with meals from Lighthouse Bistro.

“When members realise that they are being cared for, it makes all the difference. They will open up and share their joys and despairs,” Dominic pointed out. As the famous quote goes, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”.

During this time of uncertainty and stress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, such care goes a long way.

He related how a young Singaporean seafarer, a first time father, happily bade farewell to the crew and headed for the airport upon signing off only to find himself sent back to the vessel due to the government’s travel restrictions.

“He was understandably worried, upset and depressed. We wouldn’t have uncovered his plight if we hadn’t stayed in contact,” said Dominic. The SMOU member was repatriated home in due time. All the while, Dominic cheered him on through whatsapp messages and kept him and his family posted of the shipping company’s repatriation plan.

During his staycation with his family at Capri by Fraser, the happy seafarer remembered Dominic and personally got in touch with him. “He actually video called me and showed me his new-born son!” Dominic gushed. The subsidised staycation is part of SMOU 70th Anniversary celebration gift for paid-up members.

To Dominic, his end goal as SMOU Senior IRO and YSMOU Chairman is to build the relationship between SMOU and the members. “My job is to bridge the members to SMOU and show them that the Union will always rally around them in support.”