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Singapore celebrates May Day every year on 1 May together with much of the world. The PAP Government makes it a point to stage elaborate shows with the National Trade Unions Congress (NTUC) at the forefront and the prime minister delivering a message to the workers.
But do we really know the significance behind the occasion and, more importantly, does the PAP really care about Singaporean workers?
May Day (or Labour Day in North America where it is celebrated in September) started off as a northern European tradition. In more recent times, it also became the occasion to mark International Workers’ Day, commemorated by trade unions all over the world.
It was the struggle of these workers’ organisations that gave rise to the ‘eight-hour’ principle: eight-hours’ work, eight-hours’ recreation and eight-hours’ rest. Unions also fought for what we now take for granted: the weekend.
In Singapore, however, May Day and the labour movement has been hijacked by the PAP and used to show its ‘socialist’ credentials while effectively stripping Singaporean workers of every conceivable right they had.
The history goes back to the days when Lee Kuan Yew fought Lim Chin Siong for control of the trade unions. In the 1950s and 60s, workers and ordinary Singaporeans were the ones who gave political parties power.
Lim Chin Siong was head and shoulders above everyone in Singapore, including Lee, when it came to inspiring the people and mobilising them to nationhood. He spoke the people’s language, literally and politically, and he genuinely cared for them.
Back then Lee was the architect of the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) which later became the NTUC. Lim led the Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU).
When the PAP split and Lim left the party, he took with him the meat and bones of the PAP as well as labour movement. The PAP, overnight, became a shell of a party. But because the British supported Lee who was also the prime minister then, Lim Chin Siong was arrested and detained without trial under Operation Coldstore in 1963.
With Lim and other leaders of SATU behind bars, the PAP quickly established NTUC as the umbrella labour organisation in Singapore. Since then the PAP Government has appointed a cabinet minister to head the NTUC in every administration. It systematically crushed any independent labour movement in Singapore and removed the rights of workers to organise themselves.
Today, workers have little or no bargaining power resulting in their exploitation. Elderly workers still toil for little pay. NTUC runs supermarkets and holiday chalets instead of fighting for minimum wage. Foreign workers are brought into to displace and replace Singaporeans.
And every year the prime minister insults our intelligence by telling us how much the government has done for the Singaporean workers. Meanwhile the wage gap grows and inflation bites in.
Join us Singaporeans at Hong Lim Park tomorrow and let us with a loud and clear voice, tell the PAP that enough is enough!
Event: SDP May Day Rally – Campaign Against Income Inequality
Date: 1 May 2012 (Tuesday)
Time: 3pm to 7pm
Place: Speakers’ Corner, Hong Lim Park