Time to reinstate workers' rights

28 November 2012

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Singapore Democrats

Singapore's workers have been exploitedfor far too long. Since the detention of opposition and trade unionleaders like Lim Chin Siong and the eradication of free trade unionstogether with the restructuring of the employment laws in the 1960s,the PAP has, together with Western neoliberals, systematicallydismantled the legitimate rights of the Singaporean worker.$CUT$

While we have the highest number ofmillionaires per capita making us the richest country in the world,nearly 5 percent of our workers are paid $500 a month. Their wageshave not risen in the last 10 years. The result is an enormous incomeinequality, the highest in the industrialised world.

And while Singaporeans work the mostnumber of hours, according to a survey by the International LabourOrganisation, real wages continue to decline. This has made us one ofthe most stressful countries in Asia to work; our workers are amongthe unhappiest.

Yet, we are governed by ministers whopay themselves the highest salaries in the world regardless of theirperformance. They are guided by an ideological adherence to theneoliberal idea of market fundamentalism which allows the richunbridled power to amass vast fortunes that distort the market. As aresult, Singapore's economic progress is held hostage by an elitewhich corners wealth at the expense of the rest of society.

Such an arrangement is unsustainableand will eventually result in economic meltdown. The two-day strikecarried out by SMRT bus drivers from China is a manifestation of theunderlying problem. But while the Chinese Government has spoken upfor the SMRT workers from China, Singaporean workers remain at themercy of the PAP. Someone has to stand up for them.

The SDP will work towards bringing ourlabour laws in accordance with international standards, allowingSingaporean workers to organise themselves free from the NTUC'scontrol. Free trade cannot exist when one side does not have thefreedom to organise and bargain.

It is severely myopic to continue downthe path of worker exploitation. Empowering our workers will enablethem to feel more secure and facilitate a happier workingenvironment. Studies show unequivocally that such a labour frameworkrapidly increases labour productivity, currently languishing atpersistently worrying levels.

Increasing wage levels by introducing aminimum wage also contributes significantly to a productive labourforce, not to mention increasing workers' spending power. This willbe good for the overall economy.

The liberalisation and deregulationrules laid down by the Washington Consensus, to which the PAP sofervently subscribes, cannot be allowed to continue in Singapore.Singaporean workers, speaking with a unified voice, must seek to putan end to their own exploitation.