Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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NTUC dissatisfied with non-unionised companies? Are workers satisfied?

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Few non-unionised firms heed pay guide” (Straits Times, May 31).

NTUC not happy with non-unionised companies?

It states that “the labour movement has come out to say it is dissatisfied with the number of non-unionised firms that heeded last year’s recommendations.

2 in 10 unionised companies did not give $50?

While some eight in 10 companies in the unionised sector followed NWC guidelines calling for low-wage workers to be given a $50 raise, only a small minority of non-unionised companies followed suit.”

Such is the pathetic state of our labour environment and movement that even about 20 per cent of unionised companies did not heed the NWC guidelines to give just a miserable $50 wage increase to those earning less than $1,000 a month.

Workers even more unhappy than NTUC?

So, what does the NTUC do about this pathetic state of affairs? Well, it voices its dissatisfaction with the non-unionised companies of which only a small minority heeded the recommendation.

If you are a low-wage worker earning less than $1,000 in the about 20 per cent of unionised companies who did not even get the paltry $50 increase, when inflation was about 4.6 per cent last year – who should you blame? Arguably, shouldn’t it be the NTUC?

What are unions for if it does not fight for the rights of workers – particularly low-wage workers?

How many – did not reveal?

As to “NTUC did not reveal the exact number (small minority of non-unionised companies), but a Straits Times check with 12 firms found that only four complied” – why is NTUC not transparent? – why did it not reveal the actual numbers? – what is it afraid of? – how were the numbers (secret because “did not reveal”) derived?

95.9% did not give one-off special payment?

When 95.9 per cent of private establishments had not given the one-off special
payment to their rank-and-file employees as recommended by the NWC in 2010, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s Report on wages 2011 – did the NTUC say or do anything?

Only 60% gave pay rise?

When the Singapore National Employers Federation’s (SNEF) efforts to get companies to support the National Wages Council’s (NWC) recommendations (“More companies supporting NWC’s recommendation on low-wage workers”, Channel NewsAsia, Jul 7, 2012) – reported the results of its survey that only 60 per cent of the 160 companies which had responded then, had given a pay rise to low wage workers – did the NTUC say or do anything?

How much less to how many?

Moreover, the fact was that one-quarter of the responding companies gave
less than the recommended $50, which means that even an increase of say $10 may also have been recorded as partial fulfillment of the NWC recommendation. In this regard, did the NTUC say or do anything?

All against Lim Chong Yah’s $50?

When Professor Lim Chong Yah suggested last year that those earning $1,000 or below be given an immediate $50 raise per month – the response generally from the union movement, employers’ federation and the Government was that even this meager $50 increase for all low-income workers was not very favourable. In this regard, did the NTUC say or do anything? (actually it did say that it was not in favour of it)

Must have productivity gains?

The consistent rhetoric was and still is that wages can only go up with productivity gains, despite Singapore’s poor productivity growth being a clear indictment that our productivity enhancement initiatives and programmes have not and are still not working.

So, what is NTUC trying to tell us (by implication if you read the subject news report) now – that it is better for a low-wage worker to be working in a unionised company rather than a non-unionised one?

In conclusion, I doubt if anyone would disagree that the NTUC has not been very effective in helping low-wage workers to get higher wages (just a decent fair wage will do).

1,001 reasons?

Like all things, people will say that there will always be low-wage workers, there will always be companies that are not doing well (and so may not be able to give the miserable $50 increment), “minimum wage” is not good for Singapore” – blah, blah, blah!

So, let’s let the numbers do the talking:

How many workers not getting a fair wage?

With about 110,000 full-time workers earning less than $1,000, and about 400,000 full and part-time workers earning $1,200 and below, the total number of full and part-time workers earning not more than $1,500 may be over half a million.

According to the Department of Statistics’ Yearbook of Statistics 2012, ACTIVE CENTRAL PROVIDENT FUND MEMBERS BY WAGE LEVEL in 2011, there were458,600 workers earning less than $1,500 a month. If we include those who for various reasons may not be active CPF members because they did not make a contribution in the last three months, such as the unemployed, self-employed who did not make CPF Medisave contributions, those under-going training, etc, the total number of workers earning below $1,500 may be more than 500,000.

According to the Report on the Labour Force 2011, as of June, 2011, there were 697,200 earning less than $2,000 of which 464,000 earned less than $1,500 and 236,300 earned less than $1,000. There were 306,800 full-time workers and 157,300 part-time workers earning less than $1,500, 110,400 full-time workers and 126,000 part-time workers earning less than $1,000, 299,800 self-employed persons, and 36.2 per cent of employed residents worked more than 48 hours a week.

Looking at the above statistics, we may have a long way to go before most Singaporeans may get a fair basic wage (without having to be the world No. 1 for the longest weekly work hours) – thanks (or perhaps no thanks) to the effectiveness of our labour movement.

Finally, aren’t you ashamed  when you look at the above wage statistics – when Singapore recently became the richest country in the world!


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