SDP May Day message: Empower workers

May 1, 2003
Singapore Democrats

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As Singapore enters into its fifth year of economic malaise, workers continue to bear the brunt of PAPs misguided economic policies.

Worse, the Government is unable to provide any credible remedy to overcome the countrys present economic woes. Instead it has the audacity to berate Singaporeans as whiners and quitters.

It is all too easy for Government ministers to sit in the lavishly furnished offices, dine in expensive restaurants, go home to opulent houses and draw million-dollar salaries to tell Singaporean workers to lower their expectations and not be choosy in their job search.

What it has been very good at is to tell Singaporeans to wait for the US economy to pick up. Waiting for the Americans to solve our economic plight is not a solution but a cop out. Ministers dont need such obscene salaries to come up with such non-solutions. DPM Lee Hsien Loong had urged voters to kick out politicians who have no solutions to offer Singapore. Mr Lee should take a good look at the Economic Restructuring Committees report, a committee which he chairs, and take the appropriate steps.

On this May Day, the SDP repeats its call on the Government to take immediate steps to address the needs of workers by carrying out the following:

Introduce minimum wage. With the cost of living as high as Singapores, it is unforgivable to continue pay Singaporean workers Third World wage levels. A just minimum wage is essential for people to live decent and dignified lives, and to ensure that employees are not exploited. While company directors and CEOs pay themselves handsome bonuses and incentives even when their companies record losses, workers struggle with wages that demean their existence and make their lives a greater hardship. Unjust wages breed insecurity and resentment which do nothing to boost productivity.

Implement retrenchment entitlements. When workers are retrenched, most are left in the lurch with nothing to cushion their fall. With bills to pay and commitments to meet, retrenched workers are often left out in the cold. Retrenchment benefits will help unfortunate workers to tide through bad times while giving them time to seek re-employment.

Empower workers. Without democratic freedoms, workers in Singapore are unable to organise themselves and protect their own interests. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that during a date as important as International Workers Day, the Singapore Government bans workers from coming together to publicly commemorate the occasion. Only countries such as North Korea, Vietnam, Burma, and Cuba have such totalitarian measures over workers. Professor Amartya Sen, economist and Nobel laureate, summed up the SDPs case when he wrote: Political and civil rights give people the opportunity to draw attention forcefully to general needs and to demand appropriate public action. The governmental response to acute suffering often depends on the pressure that is put on it and this is where the political rights (voting, criticizing, protesting and so on) can make a real difference.”

Singaporeans have sacrificed much through the years to achieve when we have achieved. Unfortunately and unashamedly, the PAP has taken much of the credit and in the process robbed workers of their rights. It is time these rights are returned to working Singaporeans.