Singapore's workers have been exploited
for far too long. Since the detention of opposition and trade union
leaders like Lim Chin Siong and the eradication of free trade unions
together with the restructuring of the employment laws in the 1960s,
the PAP has, together with Western neoliberals, systematically
dismantled the legitimate rights of the Singaporean worker.
While we have the highest number of
millionaires per capita making us the richest country in the world,
nearly 5 percent of our workers are paid $500 a month. Their wages
have not risen in the last 10 years. The result is an enormous income
inequality, the highest in the industrialised world.
And while Singaporeans work the most
number of hours, according to a survey by the International Labour
Organisation, real wages continue to decline. This has made us one of
the most stressful countries in Asia to work; our workers are among
Yet, we are governed by ministers who
pay themselves the highest salaries in the world regardless of their
performance. They are guided by an ideological adherence to the
neoliberal idea of market fundamentalism which allows the rich
unbridled power to amass vast fortunes that distort the market. As a
result, Singapore's economic progress is held hostage by an elite
which corners wealth at the expense of the rest of society.
Such an arrangement is unsustainable
and will eventually result in economic meltdown. The two-day strike
carried out by SMRT bus drivers from China is a manifestation of the
underlying problem. But while the Chinese Government has spoken up
for the SMRT workers from China, Singaporean workers remain at the
mercy of the PAP. Someone has to stand up for them.
The SDP will work towards bringing our
labour laws in accordance with international standards, allowing
Singaporean workers to organise themselves free from the NTUC's
control. Free trade cannot exist when one side does not have the
freedom to organise and bargain.
It is severely myopic to continue down
the path of worker exploitation. Empowering our workers will enable
them to feel more secure and facilitate a happier working
environment. Studies show unequivocally that such a labour framework
rapidly increases labour productivity, currently languishing at
persistently worrying levels.
Increasing wage levels by introducing a
minimum wage also contributes significantly to a productive labour
force, not to mention increasing workers' spending power. This will
be good for the overall economy.
The liberalisation and deregulation
rules laid down by the Washington Consensus, to which the PAP so
fervently subscribes, cannot be allowed to continue in Singapore.
Singaporean workers, speaking with a unified voice, must seek to put
an end to their own exploitation.