Mayday Protest: Immigrant policies are prime reasons for labour woes

By Terry Xu

Over 600 attended the May Day protest event held at Hong Lim Park on Labour Day, 1st May 2014. The event was organized by Transitioning.org, a local organization which helps locals who lost their jobs and are in need of help.

The main emphasis of the speeches by the speakers is on immigrant policies which the speakers referred to as flawed policies by the ruling party, People’s Action Party (PAP), which resulted in foreigners taking jobs from locals.

“Vote them out” was chanted throughout the demonstration. “Them” was meant to refer to the PAP.

Although foreigners are used heavily in the context of the speeches, the speakers made the effort to note that the anger that they have is not directed against foreigners but the immigrant policies and the ruling party. This is in response to the accusations of xenophobia made about locals complaining over the issues.

Mr Kwan Yue Keng, a volunteer at Transitioning.org said that it is a good time to think about the 6.9 million target set by the Population White Paper. He added that the effects of the policies are showing up in all aspects of life surrounding Singaporeans. Speaking on the Philippine Independence Day celebration saga said, “For thirty over years, we have not exhibited any single phobic traits in anyway. We have not stirred any hatred against them. We continue to live with them and I am sure you will continue to live with them peacefully. It is a problem of language and culture… probably.”

Mr Gilbert Goh led the crowd in chanting slogans such as “Con people’s money, CPF” and “No to 6.9, no to PAP, No to NTUC, no no no,” to express their displeasure on the issues that surround workers and the ruling party.

He publicly “shamed” two companies, highlighting that the companies had sacked local employees and replacing them with foreigners while highlighting one company that had rehired the local employee after the issue was brought to the public’s attention through social media. Linda, the employee who was sacked and rehired, also spoke at the event about her experience.

Asked if there can be a change in the labour situation that the speakers have highlighted, Roy Ngerng, blogger at theHeartTruths.com said that things might change for the better when PAP is taken out of power. He made reference to Singapore ranking fifth in the cronyism index by The Economist, and was of the view that current government policies “reward those affiliated to the governing polity”, which impedes competition and results in stagnation in the Singapore economy.

“The restructuring process in Singapore is thus put on a back burner as companies which are politically affiliated and which might need to restructure does not have an incentive to do so. Keeping these companies would only result in inefficiencies and lower wages, which has thus further victimised workers in Singapore into a low-wage situation.”

Past President of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, Leong Sze Hian also spoke at the protest about labour issues. His speech is embedded below.

The crowd size of about 600 was a far cry from the population White Paper protests organised by transitioning.org, which the organizers estimated to be 6,000. Mr Goh said the recent announcement by Singapore Police Force on Wednesday, which advised him  against carrying out activities during the demonstration that may constitute offences under the Penal Code and the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, might have deterred would-be supporters.

Other possible reasons could be that citizens do not feel they can change the immigration policy with protests at this point.  There were also incidents where Mr Goh has been called a xenophobe, which might have given would-be supporters a bad impression of the organisers.