Honour our workers

Singapore Democrats

Honour our workers and protect their rights. This was the message of the speakers at the SDP’s Labour Day public forum held on Saturday.$CUT$

Speaking in Mandarin, the speakers marked this year’s May Day by highlighting the continuing restrictions Singaporean workers face. (Photo – from left: Bryan Lim, Chng Min Oh, Jaslyn Go, and moderator Gerous Khung)

Today’s Singaporean workers find themselves in an unenviable position: They face diminishing real wages while saddled with a high cost of living and one of the longest working hours in the world.

Ms Jaslyn Go kicked off the forum by highlighting discrimination against women in the workplace such as maternity benefits, hiring women of child bearing age, and inequality in pay between men and women performing the same job.

Even though working conditions have generally improved through the years, there is much discrimination in the workforce and women still bear the brunt of it.
She recounted her own situation as a working mother. In a company that she worked for, all female employees had to undertake not to get pregnant in the first 12 months of their employment. In other interviews she attended, employers were more interested to know if she was starting a family soon rather than inquiring about her qualifications and skills.

Ms Go called for the protection of the rights of women workers. “There must be no place for discrimination against women in the workforce,” she said. “Our labour laws must protect the rights of all women workers.”

Mr Chng Min Oh, a trade union leader in the 1960s, was another speaker. He talked about how Singaporean workers had united against the British colonial government and campaigned against their own exploitation.

They had supported the PAP when it was first formed because labour leaders like (the late) Mr Lim Chin Siong, who was a founding member of the PAP, had the workers’ welfare at heart. However, after the PAP became the Government in 1959, it started to work against the interests of workers.

After the arrest of political and trade union leaders in the 1960s, Mr Chng said, the Government controlled the labour movement through the NTUC and, since then, workers have not been able to exercise their rights.

CEC member Mr Bryan Lim rounded up the forum presentations by highlighting what the SDP can do to improve the conditions for workers in Singapore. He raised the Singaporeans First Policy where the SDP recommends that Singaporeans be given priority when it comes to jobs.

“Our policy includes the rigorous examination of the qualifications of foreigners who wish to work in Singapore as professionals, managers, executives and technicians,” Mr Lim said. “Also, employers must demonstrate that they have made every effort to hire Singaporeans before they can employ foreign workers.”

He also brought up the issue of minimum wage, a policy long championed by the SDP. Mr Lim noted that more and more establishment figures are slowly accepting the SDP’s position that minimum wage is necessary to address the income disparity in Singapore. Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-jin has even admitted that he does not oppose minimum wage.

Mr Lim repeated the SDP’s stand to empower our workers. He said, “The people of Singapore have made many sacrifices for our country’s prosperity and wealth. Unfortunately, the People’s Action Party  took much of the credit and deprived rights of our workers.”

The SDP wishes all workers a meaningful and productive May Day!

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