It shouldn't come as a surprise that without trade unions free from state control, workers rights – including their wages – are always going to be adversely affected.$CUT$
What is surprising, however, is that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently published a study, Power from the People, saying that “Weakening of unions reduces the bargaining power of workers relative to capital owners and top earners.”
The study concludes that “there would be grounds for governments to take policy action. Such action could include...reaffirmation of labor standards that allow willing workers to bargain collectively.”
What is even stranger is that one of its senior officials is our very own Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam who also sits in a cabinet which has long ensured that the back of Singapore's labour movement remains crushed.
The PAP insists on retaining the indefensible position of putting a cabinet minister in charge of the NTUC. Industrial action in Singapore is prohibited under the law as the recent prosecution of SMRT bus drivers who went on strike so dismally illustrates.
Singapore is also one of the last few countries in the world that does not have a national minimum wage – in a city ranked as the most expensive in the world.
Without the ability to freely organise themselves, Singaporean workers will continue to be exploited and their wages suppressed by the PAP.
This is why the SDP proposed in our economic policy A New Economic Vision for Singapore (Abridged) (Full) that, as far as our workers are concerned, we should upgrade their minds, not just their skills. We do this by empowering them and stopping the undemocratic suppression of trade unions.
Not only will workers who are free and empowered be able to bargain for fair wages, they also make for a happier and more secure workforce. Surveys show that Singaporean workers are the unhappiest in Asia, if not the world.
A happy workforce is also a more productive one. Unfortunately, Mr Tharman did not address this point in his Budget but has, instead, thrown good money after bad by coming up with more inept policies to vainly chase elusive productivity gains.
If his party is too proud (or too unenlightened) to take the medicine that the SDP prescribes to boost productivity and reduce income inequality, then perhaps the Finance Minister should heed the advice of his colleagues at the IMF.
They'll tell him the same thing: Free Singaporean workers.
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