No unions, no voice and now no job

November 20, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Let’s face it, the present economic turmoil does not hurt everyone across the board. PAP ministers and their corporate appointees continue to earn the fat salaries that they have been giving themselves all this time.

On the other end of the food-chain are the workers who are getting sacked in the thousands. They are the ones suffering the brunt of the downturn many without anything to fall back on.

Are the employers justified in cutting the jobs? How many take advantage of the fact that there is no union here to retrench workers as a first resort? Those that DBS axed days ago have the painful answers.

But one cannot say that this is something new. The systematic subjugation of workers’ rights has been going on for decades, leaving them completely at the mercy of the Government and employers.

Below is an excerpt from A Nation Cheated written by Dr Chee Soon Juan. It recounts how Mr Lee Kuan Yew hammered labour after he rounded up and jailed opposition and trade union leaders.

For people who still wonder why and how human rights are important for your livelihood, the axing of the DBS workers is your answer

Pressure against the labour movement started off innocuously enough in 1965, when the NTUC, the Singapore Manufacturer’s Association, and the Singapore Employers’ Federation were brought together to endorse the Charter for Industrial Progress.

The document advocated that worker, employer, and government alike “must pool their efforts and strive for a continuing increase in productivity and output in all enterprises.”

One year later on 17 August 1966, the government passed the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act, making strikes and other industrial actions illegal unless approved through secret ballot by a majority of a union’s members. Sympathy strikes were also outlawed, as was the formation of a federation of unions for workers in essential services.

Following this, the Employment Act was passed in 1968 despite strong objections from a number of unions affiliated to the PAP-controlled NTUC. To quell the growing resentment within the rank and file of trade unionists, Devan Nair had to return to Singapore from Kuala Lumpur to head the NTUC again (Nair had stayed on in Malaysia after being elected to the Malaysian Parliament in 1964).

The Employment Act increased the standard weekly working hours from 39 to 44; cut the number of public holidays from 15 to 11 per year; decreased the number of rest days, days of sick leave, and days of paid annual leave; limited the amount of bonus payments for workers; and curtailed retrenchment benefits for workers.

The Act had the intended effect of bringing considerable savings to employers in direct and indirect payments to labour.

In addition the right to hire, fire, promote, transfer, and retrench workers without union interference—the most salient aspect of any labour-management relations—had been handed over to the management under the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act passed in 1968.

Through the years, the PAP has not relented on its hold over the labour movement. In 2000, it further diluted the rights of union members by allowing union leaders to merge their organisations without having to seek approval from the members. The fine for members who took part in illegal industrial actions was doubled to S$2,000.

Kinokuniya Bookstore has made its sixth order for A Nation Cheated since it was launched in three months ago. The book is also sold at Select Books at the Tanglin Shopping Centre. Get your copy today and read about the other Singapore, the one that the PAP doesn’t want you to know.