Mohan Kandia Chandra, SMOU member for 38 years, has a demeanour of a strong and independent individual. As a sole breadwinner to his family, with a teenage daughter who is hearing-impaired, there is a responsibility upon him to ensure that there is always food on the table for his family.
Mohan recalled the days when he was at sea, it was his father, Kandarasa Kandia, an active member of the Port Workers’ Union back in the 1960s, who would go to the SMOU office, then located at Farrer Park, to pay the union membership fees on his behalf.
It has become an annual practice for Mohan, to continue this ‘tradition’ of renewing membership fees at the union office every year end. Mohan remembered most about what his father said – that the union helps its members in times of need.
Mohan started his sailing career in 1981, working with Pacific International Lines (PIL). He then moved on to work with Reefer Lines on a passenger ship, and subsequently with Neptune Orient Lines (NOL). At the age of 62 in 2019, Mohan retired from ASEAN Cable Ship after being employed by them for about 19 years.
Impression of the union
“Those days when I was young, I didn’t pay much attention to the work of the union and I didn’t participate much in the union activities. But, when I retired, the union came to my aid.”
“The union has been very helpful to me,’ said Mohan.
When Mohan had just retired from ASEAN Cable Ship, COVID-19 struck globally. He needed to continue working to support his family but did not know where to find one.
He turned to SMOU for help. SMOU General Secretary Mary Liew personally stepped in because she knew about his family’s situation. She communicated with Mohan’s daughter and assured Mohan that SMOU would do its best to assist him.
Through the help of SMOU Industrial Relations officer Kelvin Lin, Mohan was job-linked to Antares Maritime, an agency, where he managed to first secure a five-month contract to work as a 3rd Engineer. Mohan shared, “COVID was a blessing for Singapore seafarers in that because foreign seamen were not available, local seafarers had more job opportunities.”
Mohan also benefitted from the SMOU training incentive on the mandatory training courses for the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) for revalidation of his CoC 5 Marine Engineer certificate. The union also provided food from Lighthouse Bistro for Mohan when he had to stay at a designated holding facility during crew change process.
Mohan hopes that by next year, the economic situation will pick up. “I hope to be able to continue to get new contracts without too long a wait in between. My concern is for many of my peers, who may have greater challenges securing jobs because of their age. Employers should consider hiring older workers who are still fit to work.”
If there is anything that holds true of SMOU, it is that the union will always be there for its members in times of need.