The History of FDAWU

The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) branch of the Industrial Workers Union of Singapore (IWU) had enough of the union's "anti-national and pro-communist" elements.


At the branch annual meeting in April 1964, NAAFI warned its parent body to be on guard against infiltration of "subversive elements". NAAFI passed a resolution to fully support the government's efforts in bringing about industrial peace and prosperity.


Four months later, the branch boycotted the IWU annual delegates conference on the grounds that the leadership of the union was "bent on pursuing dangerous pro-communist tactics" which could "prove harmful to the real interest of workers". In a strongly worded letter sent to IWU, the branch leaders remarked: "We have little doubt that what the leaders of the union seek to do is not to advance the cause democratic trade unionism, but to seek the reincarnation the Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU)* group.”


Charging that IWU was "anti-national and pro-communist”, the over 1,000 member NAAFI branch boldly broke away from IWU and formed the Food, Drinks and Allied Worker Union (FDAWU) on 6 November 1964.


At the inaugural meeting of FDAWU on 21 December 1964, a resolution was passed to affiliate the Union to National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the International Union of Food and Allied Workers Association (IUF). The former President of NTUC Ho See Beng commended the Union for succeeding in coming out of the clutches of the pro­ communist IWU.


Nine months after its formation, FDAWU welcomed onboard the Fitzpatrick's Supermarket branch which joined the Union after breaking away from IWU. The branch issued a statement highlighting that the Fitzpatrick's workers were "thoroughly fed up with the leadership of the IWU" whose interest in the welfare of the workers was a "mere pretence in comparison with its interest in politics". It also encouraged other branches to resign from the IWU and join FDAWU.


In September 1965, the Cold Storage branch of IWU also quit from IWU and came under the fold of FDAWU. The branch delegates had walked out of the IWU's annual conference following a clash of opinions with the "extreme leftists" in IWU. The branch issued a statement declaring: "We, the workers of Cold Storage, do not believe in supporting the leadership of a union that is clearly not working for the interests of the workers, or country, and we will never allow our strength as members of a trade union to be used for political ideologies that tend to destroy our nation."


Malayan Refrigerating Company and Walls Fitzpatrick's also resigned en bloc from IWU and came under the umbrella of the newly-formed FDAWU.


Reporting at the Union's first biennial delegates conference in 1966, the former General Secretary Michael Selvanayagam, said: "We added the responsibility of catering for hotel, restaurant, tobacco, club and bowling centre workers by an amendment to the constitution ... we are confident that we shall be able to organise all hotel workers in due course."


*Note: The pro-Barisan SATU was refused registration on 13 November 1963.

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