Your letters: Foreign workers, Workfare and loyalty

April 16, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

From time to time we post and respond to letters from our readers. In this instalment we highlight three comments that we have received in the past few weeks.

The first includes a reprimand from a foreigner who took issue with our stance on the Foreign Talent Policy, the second querying about our proposal of Minimum Wage, and the third lambasting the SDP for our opposition to the PAP. The letters may have been edited for brevity.  

I’m a former supporter of sdp and still current “opposition” to pap. I never had a problem raising awareness by discussing my views with other singaporeans and fellow foreigners alike. its so disappointing to see the sdp start bad mouthing foreigners like myself. I love singapore and have chosen to grow my career and family hear so its sad to see the most effective vehicle for political evolution turn use such a nasty tactic to garner support. shame on you sdp. you’ve lost one formerly ardent supporter.

Pissedoff

Dear pissedoff,

The SDP does not “bad mouth” foreigners to garner support. We don’t need to. Read our Economic Report or A Nation Cheated and you will find entire sections dedicated to raising awareness about the exploitation of foreign workers in Singapore.

Let us be absolutely clear, this is not a situation of locals versus foreigners but one of the exploitation of labour, both local and foreign.

Haven’t you heard of foreign workers not getting paid? Don’t you know that many of them are stuck here because they borrowed large sums of money to pay agents to bring them to Singapore only to find that they are paid so lowly once they’re here that they have to work for years just to pay back their loans?

And low-wage foreign workers suppress wages for Singaporeans making life a misery for the locals. Who wins? We’ll tell you who wins. The rich and the powerful – both local and foreign.

The reason why the PAP Government opens the flood gates to foreigners is because it needs to suppress wages in Singapore in order to keep investors happy.

It is a case of too much too quickly. The sudden increase in guest workers here in Singapore is not a problem created by the Singapore Democrats. Singaporeans see it, hear it and feel it in their everyday lives. That’s the reality.

The reality is also that resentment is building. (Why do you think the Government has to keep up the propaganda that without foreigners our economy would pancake?) If this resentment boils over, there will be ugly consequences. Now tell us, how does that help our guest workers?

Add to this the fact that this has been forced on Singaporeans in a system where we already have little or no say in public policies, and you are asking for trouble.

How does the SDP alleviate this problem? Our Singaporeans First Policy appeals to common sense. We welcome foreign workers but we need to do this in a sustainable way.

SDP

 

Dr Chee, if you could so kindly explain why a min wage is workable for Singapore in light of “workfare”. Furthermore, how would min wage not apply to the hundreds and thousands of domestic help within Singapore without severely discrminating against them?

Marcus

Dear Marcus,

Workfare is an incentive for low-wage workers, many of whom are our elderly, to continue to work. The Government’s stated objective is to ensure that these people “find work a clearly superior alternative to social assistance” and to provide incentives so that “remaining in work is worthwhile.” If they fulfill a certain criteria grants may be given.

Clearly the scheme is aimed at getting a certain section of the population, the elderly poor, to continue to work. The “assistance” that is given is on a needs basis.

This is very different from Minimum Wage which legislates that employers must not pay workers below a stipulated amount.

Under Workfare low-wage workers are still underpaid. They may get assistance but let’s be clear here: They are still undperpaid. The obvious question is why must workers, young or old, not be paid sufficiently so that they do not have to depend on grants and handouts?

It is really a simple principle: All workers working on a full-time basis must, at the very minimum, be able to meet the basic cost of living in Singapore. No one putting in a honest day’s work should have to go to the Government and prove that they have met some criteria in order to get monetary assistance just so that they can make ends meet.

Self-worth is an important concept, not just in social terms but economic ones as well. A poorly paid worker is an insecure worker is an unproductive worker.

Workfare reinforces the master-servant arrangement, economically and psychologically, which the PAP clearly wants. Minimum wage ensures that workers are paid what they are entitled wthout having to feel that they are receiving the charity of their employers.

Chee Soon Juan

 

Hi,

Criticism is easy!  I have lived through the tumultous years of 1959 onwards, being born in 1942,  I know what went on during the formative years of Singapore and I am glad we have the PAP, daring to make bold decisions for the common good of Singapore.

Our younger citzens who listen to your National Day message do not know what it was like to be thrown out of Malaysia and dumped by the British Labour Party to sink with the pull out of the Naval Base.  People in this region must have thought that we will not succeed. 

Every year after 1959, thousand of school leavers join the work force and the introduction of the National Service was truly a master stroke to keep young workers off the labour market for 2 years while the PAP Goverment buy time to work hard and produced innovative actions to keep us afloat – Employment Act, NTUC, etc all of which you criticised as authouritarian – I know better.

What has SDP done? Stole the Party from its FOUNDER and go abroad and denigrate our leaders – truly an unthinkable disloyal act to the citizens of Singapore, one I think is unforgivable by the way I was brought up – one of respecting others.  Yet the government is magnaminous and allow you to break the law time and again and you are still free to express nonsense and hoodwink my fellow citizens with your one -sided perspective.

Argue sensibly and present workable alternatives if you can from now on… and stop sending this nonsense to me.  Put it on the blog site of your website if you cherish freedom of thoughts.

Loyalty to Singapore and Respect Law above all!

Anthony Lim P C

Dear Mr Lim,

You obviously don’t know the Singapore Democrats. If you did, you would know that we do not censor views just because they are critical of us, quite unlike the PAP whom you defend so extravagantly.

What we do is to publish your views and counter them with logic and reason, not with the ISA. In this case, however, we are happy to post your letter without comment and let readers judge for themselves the sensibility of your views.

SDP