Labour Day Message 2008: Putting Singaporeans First
By Yaw Shin Leong, Organising Secretary of The Workers’ Party
The top down tripartite collaboration amongst the Government, employers and a pro-government labour union is a sure recipe for potential compromises for the Singaporean worker.
Overall employment creation in Singapore for the whole of 2007 is 236,600, surpassing 176,000 in 2006. However foreign employment rose to a new high of 144,500 in 2007. This means only 38.9% in 236,600 jobs created last year truly benefited Singaporeans.
Singaporeans will be none the better off, even if more jobs are created, when more than 60% of the jobs created go to foreigners. Although Singaporeans may participate in skills upgrading programs, many realize that promotional prospects are limited.
A certain portion of these jobs created could have been part time contract work positions. While the above statistics illustrate a rosy picture of high employment rate boosting the general public’s confidence in the Singapore’s economy, these figures require more detailed analysis to understand the actual employment status that Singaporeans are in.
Could it be that more Singaporeans are holding contractual part-time work positions, whereas foreigners might be benefiting from the full time positions created?
If this is the situation, this will disadvantage some segments of Singaporeans, resulting in less than ideal employment terms, such as compromised medical benefits and annual leave.
Singaporeans’ Societal Standing
To face the future with confidence and optimism, Singaporeans must be assured first of our societal standing in the midst of global uncertainties. Under the current top down tripartite collaboration model bold measures are taken to tackle macro economic challenges, and the impact on Singaporean workers must not be written off.
With reference to a recent report in the local media, Minister Lim Boon Heng gave an explanation to a distressed Singaporean woman concerned about losing her job to a ’sweet young beer girl from China’ that the foreigner’s presence actually helped to draw in businesses, in turn saving the Singaporean woman’s job. Such a ‘brush-off’ comment by a ministerial authority is hardly assuring.
According to Mr Lim’s logic, is he conceding that the PAP has created an economic model whereby Singaporeans must now be dependent on the foreign workers to retain our jobs? Singaporeans must now thank foreigners for helping us keep our jobs!
As a result of this ‘unique’ economic model, the societal standing of the Singaporean worker is now being eroded in our very own country.
Singapore is indeed becoming a ‘City of Possibilities’, however, it’s not for Singaporeans but foreigners. While Singaporeans are still conceptualising our great future filled with ‘possibilities’, alas, this might already have been stealthily taken away.
The current harsh reality of rising food prices and inflation is a major concern for all Singaporeans, especially so for the lower wage workers, whose livelihood is also threatened by the increasing numbers of foreign workers.
Our government must be compassionate and be proactive to initiate more substantial measures to help Singaporeans. Whilst NTUC has initiated a food voucher program, our government should also do something on top of the initiatives by NTUC. This is not to suggest that our government should subsidise food prices across the board but they are definitely capable of giving more help.
The Workers’ Party hereby repeats our call to reduce Singapore’s GST rate by 2% and to keep our GST rates at 5% for at least a year. We also propose that the government reduce fuel tax as a compassionate gesture to ease Singaporeans’ financial burdens.
In spite of this sombre backdrop, Workers’ Party encourages fellow Singaporeans to hold our heads high and not to lose heart. The Workers’ Party will continue to pressure the government so that Singaporeans’ privileges and opportunities are not compromised in the midst of a top down tripartite collaboration amongst the Government, employers and a pro-government labour union.
The Workers’ Party wishes all Workers in Singapore a Happy Labour Day.
Yaw Shin Leong
The Workers’ Party
1 May 2008
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