Leong Sze Hian/
I refer to the report “Labour movement shows it cares for community” (Channel News Asia, Mar 19).
It states that:
“The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) aims to roll out 50 community service projects this year in collaboration with its affiliated unions.
NTUC and 27 affiliated unions pooled their resources to donate $12,500 worth of basic necessities, such as bedsheets and pillows as well as toiletries to the home (Pertapis Children’s Home).”
This means that on the average each affiliate including NTUC donated $446 each.
If this is the forerunner and indication of the other 49 projects, how significant will the help be to the community.
How many community projects were done last year, and in previous years?
Whilst it is always good to have more projects to help the needy, as I understand that the historical primary objective of the unions is to protect workers’ rights, I would like to suggest that our unions re-focus on some workers’ issues, such as:
- the rate of change of growth in jobs for foreigners being about four times more than that for locals, last year
- the job woes of Professionals, Managers, Engineers and Technicians (PMETs) due to employers being allowed unrestricted hiring of foreigners on employment passes
- some part-time workers not getting their employer’s CPF contribution, when they go for reservist training
- the Workmen’s Injury Act having changed since the previous legislation to limit employers’ liability for medical expenses for workers injured in work accidents to just $25,000
- many elderly workers working very long hours for very little pay; about 14,000 over age 65 working more than 50, 60, 65 hours and about 11,000 workers working for more than 40, 50, 60 hours for less than $500
- many low-wage workers – one in eight earning not more than $1,000
- only low-wage workers age 35 and above being helped under Workfare
- 55,600 households not earning enough to survive, and had to apply for financial assistance under Comcare last year
- an estimated 40,000 households not earning enough to pay for their HDB mortgage
- last year’s real median wage growing by only 0.5 per cent, after two years of negative real median wage growth in 2009 and 2008
- restoration of CPF to 36 per cent being entirely to the Medisave and Special Accounts, which does not increase the disposable income of workers.
Lastly I would like to point out that NTUC Care and Share’s effort to raise S$10 million to provide relief for low—income union members and their families – while admirable – could be put to more effective use, such as ensuring living wages for union members.
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