Minimum wage and not “handouts” is the answer

August 23, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Gandhi Ambalam

As the debate rages on over the humongous multi-million-dollar salaries for PAP ministers, it would be of interest to know how our workers are faring in their earning capacity.

The latest set of figures from the Ministry of Manpower on wages throws some interesting nuggets, laying bare how the PAP government’s exploitative, anti-worker policy has become.

In the past decade, ending 2008,  the hardest hit in earnings are the rank-and-file workers engaged as cleaners, labourers and related workers.  In fact, over the past ten years, these category of workers have seen their earnings drop.  In 1998, the average wage for this group was $1,389 but it declined to $1,270 last year due to the influx of cheap labour from other countries. 

It’s not uncommon to see our elderly and senior citizens working as cleaners and hawker attendants to eke out a living without any old age security from a Government that is prepared to throw $100 billion into troubled foreign banks, financial institutions and other toxic products.

It’s clear that the Government deliberately allows foreign workers to compete for jobs in all categories, leading our workers’ wages to be suppressed further and further.  It is common to find our workers, even in those employed as clerks and other white-collar jobs, to be placed on contract and temporary terms without any job security, resulting in tension and anxiety among workers.

Long working hours, far exceeding the stipulated 44-hour work-week , has become the norm.  Also it’s not uncommon to see our workers holding more than one job to make ends meet. 

While PAP ministers retain their million-dollar pay which is recession proof, contractualization and temporary nature of employment for our workers have become commonplace.

Not only is employment for our workers uncertain, but they are also denied minimum wage and left to the whims of employers. 

To bring back the dignity of labour and not to reduce our workers into depending on “handouts” and workfare, the Singapore Democratic Party has been calling for a Minimum Wage policy (click here and here).    

Our call for greater protection for Singaporean workers should not be interpreted as xenophobia. What’s the use of indiscriminately allowing foreigners to come into Singapore where they are exploited. Are we really helping them?
(Watch video here)

What we are advocating is a rational and sustainable policy where we strike a balance between having guest workers in Singapore and at the same ensure that our people earn enough to lead meaningful lives so that the benefits of economic grwoth is shared by all.

What we have now is just people existing in a society working in order that we can allow the Government to say that we have achieved x percent of GDP growth. Is that life?         
 
Read also: SDP’s May Day message: Time to help our workers

Gandhi Ambalam is the chairman of the Singapore Democrats.