Minister and union chief speaks

January 12, 2011
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

On the same day that Minister and National Trades Unions Congress (NTUC) Secretary-General Lim Swee Say claimed that he and his colleagues were the best in the world because they negotiated “good terms” for Singapore’s civil servants, his party MPs were lamenting about the plight of low-income workers in the country.

Mr Lim had bragged that the civil service in Singapore is the best in the world and should not be shy about the high pay it receives. Not lost in the message is, of course, the fact that the ministers are also the ones who are the highest paid government officials in the world. 
This stands in stark contrast to the multitude of workers in Singapore who continue to struggle from inadequate wages.

Elderly workers have little choice but to continue to slog for a living during their retirement years because they have no savings. While that is bad enough, they also find themselves having to work harder for less pay.

Younger employees find their incomes diminish as inflation ravages their spending power. The introduction of cheap and massive foreign labour by this Government has artificially depressed their wages. 

The result is an ever-widening income gap that is making life a stressful burden here in Singapore. This has caused PAP MPs to express concern and to call for a system that “can promote inclusive growth.”

But the tone-deaf Minister seems determined to ignore this development as he goes on about how well the public sector is doing – yes, even as productivity remains at a sorry level. He is the same minister who crooned “I feel so rich” when workers are having a hard time keeping up with expenses.

Quite incredibly, Mr Lim then said that he and his affiliates at the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees (AUPE) and the Public Service Division (PSD) “work hand in hand” to negotiate the terms for workers:

 

We may be the highest paid, but at the same time it is also important for them to understand we’re probably the most effective, the best civil service in the world. And this came about because AUPE and PSD (Public Service Division), we work hand in hand, so on the one hand, we negotiate for fair terms, for good terms, for responsive rewards for civil servants.

Singapore remains one of the very few places where such jarring propaganda is allowed to continue. Mr Lim is a cabinet minister serving as union chief. The arrangement means that the labour movement remains at the mercy of an exploitative Government  

But even as the PAP MPs do their little pre-election dance about the suffering of low-wage workers, they remain conspicuously silent on the rights of these workers.

Not a single one of them will break party-line and call for a scheme that will pay workers their worth. The Singapore Democrats re-emphasize this fact – workers don’t want handouts which is what the Workfare scheme essentially is. They want to be paid what they are entitled, to be paid their worth on the market. A rational market means that wages will be sufficient for living costs. This, as even PAP MPs concede, does not exist in Singapore.

Muhd Khalis and Vincent Wijeysingha interacting with a young voter

This is why the SDP is adamant about a Minimum Wage policy. Minimum Wage will ensure that workers will be spared Mr Lim’s nonsense of fighting for them while exploiting them.

It is also why the SDP continues to work in the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC of which Mr Lim, and his equally tone-deaf colleague Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, are MPs. We continued with our groundwork this past weekend where we met with residents and sold our newspaper, The New Democrat.

A chairman of a Residents’ Committee in the area approached us and expressed his anger and disillusionment with the PAP whom he said he had supported for many years. He bought a copy of the newspaper and left a generous donation.

We intend to give Mr Lim and Dr Balakrishnan a contest this coming elections, depending on the outcome of the redrawing of the boundaries which, by the way, the PAP is still withholding at this late stage. Release the information already.