Daily Archives: 2015-05-01

Mayday protest: Independent labour unions, a must for labour rights

Over 400 individuals turned up at Hong Lim Park on Mayday, 1 May to commemorate the day for laborers and to show support to Transitioning.org’s event to protest for more labour rights for Singaporean workers.

During the event, bananas were given out to attending members of public to show support to Amos Yee, a 16 year old teenager who was charged for posting a YouTube video on counts of harassment, and deliberate wounding of religious feelings. Amos is currently in police remand.

Mr Frankie Low, a businessman and a member of the National Solidarity Party started off the event with a solemn note that this May Day is the first May Day celebration without the first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, but pointed out that with or without him, Singapore is still one of the countries with the highest income inequality in the developed world. Mr Low asked how happy exactly are Singaporean workers are and hoped that opposition could do more to come together and push for changes in the government for the people.

Mary Goh, retired school teacher lamented the fact that many elders have to continue working because many of them did not earn a lot to accumulate enough for retirement, or to meet the minimum sum for CPF to be withdrawn, depending on the pitiful sum every month. She added that these people contributed to the growth of Singapore and asked why do they have to live their life as such?

Daryl Sim, an undergraduate took to stage with the recent issue where foreigners are applying for jobs with fraudulent degrees or degrees that may not be accredited and said that it is a fact that locals are finding it hard to seek proper jobs despite the low unemployment rate reported by the government.

Mr William Lim, a taxi driver and representative of Singapore Democratic Alliance highlighted the conflict of interest of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the government. Mr Lim said,  “So where is the conflict of interest? When there is a commercial or labour dispute, who should these leaders represent?”.

He added that if the union represent the labour, there may be contradiction with the government policy or cause harm to the employers. However, if the unions were to represent the employers, they’ll be violating the spirit of the Union, which is to fight for the people. “So where do our Union Stand now? The employees or the employers?”, asked Mr Lim.

Ms Fatimah Akhtar added onto the topic by sharing her experience with NTUC, saying that NTUC in response to her queries as a NTUC member, advised her to speak to her higher management or to consult a lawyer instead of acting on her behalf. Ms Fatimah also asked how the Ministry of Manpower or Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) could expect any results in their investigation if the agencies were to simply take the complaint of the workers and confront the company on the matter. She suspects while the agencies’ methodology does involve independent data but likely to rely heavily on employers’ interview.

She also spoke of the need for an independent body to conduct the investigation into accusations of discrimination against Singaporean workers.

Mr Leong Sze Hian with his usual statistics presentation, said Singaporeans are being subjected to an unfair situation, with declining wages and increasing living expenses and pointed that Singapore government does not pay anything to help Singaporeans despite the ongoing rhetoric that it has been spending on them.

singfirst at mayday protest

Opposition political party, Singfirst turned up in force at the protest event with members donning the party t-shirt and had their secretary-general, Mr Tan Jee Say and chairman, Mr Ang Yong Guan present. Mr Ang also participated in the event as a speaker.

Mr Ang in his speech talked about the need for employees to have a conducive environment for them to be productive and how the government needs to examine its policies to make people fit into the nation, sink roots here and to feel proud to be Singaporeans.

Mr Ang also spoke of the strikes in Singapore, citing the strike in 2012 by SMRT drivers which is illegal and the one in 1986 which was sanctioned by then Secretary General of NTUC, Mr Ong Teng Cheong. Mr Ang questioned, “How many Ong Teng Cheongs are there in the PAP cabinet or Parliament now? Dare to go against his cabinet ministers to do something that he considers right.” and called to have more oppositions to be sent into parliament.

tearing of degrees

Tearing of “fake degrees” on stage

Nearing the end of the protest event, Mr Gilbert Goh, organiser of the event, invited members of public to go on stage and perform a symbolic act of tearing the pieces of “fake degrees” that his volunteers had handed out earlier in the event. This in relation to the recent saga where an employee from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) posted a degree from a known degree mill in her resume.

Mr Goh said that he is happy with the turnout of the crowd despite it being a public holiday and long weekend. He reiterate the need for such a protest to be held each year to highlight issues to the government and that Singapore needs independent labour unions to work for the people and not unions such as NTUC which is helmed by a minister who is part of the government.

 

CAN’s statement on the assault on Amos Yee

11195273_10153801555168502_1225319976_n

The Community Action Network is deeply alarmed at the recent attack on Amos Yee.

Yee was assaulted, in broad daylight, outside the State Court yesterday. It appears no one attempted to stop or pursue the assailant. Photographs of Yee shortly after the attack show that he suffered some bruising to his eye. It is unclear if he was sent for a physical examination or offered medical support following the incident.

In addition to the physical attack, Yee has been subject to weeks of verbal abuse on the Internet. The language used is often aggressive and emotional. One commenter – allegedly, a grassroots leader – said Yee’s penis should be severed and stuffed into his own mouth. Others hoped he would be raped in prison. Still others have suggested that he deserves a beating. No government official has spoken up or condemned the violent language. It would not be a stretch to say that their refusal to do so might have contributed to yesterday’s assault.

Given the rhetoric against Yee, and the numerous threats to his safety, he should have been “committed to a place of safety or a place of temporary care and protection” under the Children and Young Persons Act. Instead, he is now back in remand, over his failure to abide by his bail conditions.

CAN believes that the conditions imposed on Yee are unnecessarily onerous. Apart from having to report to his Investigating Officer every day, he is also barred from posting anything online. This curtailment of Yee’s right to express himself doesn’t just infringe on his constitutional rights as a citizen, it is also disproportionate to the charges he is currently facing.

We would also like to respectfully remind authorities that under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Singapore is required to explore measures other than judicial proceedings, when dealing with juveniles who might have breached the law.

We humbly suggest that the State might have overreached in its eagerness to prosecute Yee. We understand that the charge relating to harrassment has been stood down. We urge the State to withdraw it completely, and to do so with the other two charges as well.

Shelley Thio, Rachel Zeng, Jennifer Teo, Woon Tien Wei, Terry Xu, Roy Ngerng, Martyn See, Jolovan Wham, Lynn Lee, Kirsten Han, Vincent Law

“Quarters”, a show about how citizens strive to live harmoniously despite cultural and lifestyle differences in the 70’s

“Quarters”, a theatrical extravaganza proudly presented by Avant Theatre, as part of SG50 celebration. A
theatrical production that will take audience back to the 1970s Singapore, where we relive the days when the
communal & cohesive living environment was predominant making way for Multicultural Singapore.

As part of the SG50 celebrations, “Quarters” will explore a time in post-independence Singapore’s history
where amidst great political and economic change, the new citizens of a young nation strive to live
harmoniously despite many cultural and lifestyle differences and difficulties adjusting to the nations
transformation. The play is set in ‘quarters’, a type of housing that accommodated families predominantly for
Public Utilities Board (PUB) and other statutory boards workers housing then.

Take a peek into the experiences of these people as they live extraordinary lives in cramped quarters and pave the way for racial harmony and tolerance through their interactions with their neighbours in a busy
neighbourhood yet sharing and caring creating the multicultural spirit that we celebrate today.

Be mesmerized by the colourful period costumes and props, and a spectacular set reminiscent of the quarters
of bygone years as we take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Witness the birth of the Singaporean identity
as the inhabitants of our quarters learn the true meaning of friendship, love and the ties that bind us. Be
prepared for a rousing time as our cast seek to tickle your funny bone and give you food for thought.

It’s all happening at the newly revamped Victoria Theatre, an iconic monument of our nation’s history, so get
ready to be entertained this June as we bring you back to the rocking 70s with style and flair!


Show Details

Show dates: 19 June 2015 (Friday),  20 June 2015 (Saturday)
Show time: 7.30pm
Venue: Victoria Theatre
Language: Tamil, Hokkien and Malay (with English surtitles)
Ticketing hotline: 9899 3002
Ticketing page: http://quarters.peatix.com
Enquiries: [email protected]

Cheering bigotry, cheering violence

Henson blog post

Henson blog post

Eight years ago, a homophobic, bigoted speech was made in Parliament about gay people. In particular, about homosexual men.

That reprehensible speech, by a then-Nominated Member of Parliament who is also a law professor, was a stunning and blatant abuse of the highest law-making institution in the land for a self-serving vile purpose.

But that was not the shocking thing about the sad events of that day.

What was disturbing about the speech was what came after it – how it “[drew] applause from the viewing gallery and getting many MPs thumping their seats” in obvious approval, as the Straits Times reported it then.

I wrote about this incident for Public House then. The article is now published on The Real Singapore. (See here.)

“The reaction of the MPs, more than that of the public in the public gallery, must give pause to Singaporeans who would like to see civility and rational discussion and consideration of issues in the highest law-making institution in the land,” I wrote.

“One wonders if our MPs are not homophobes – for how could one bring oneself to applaud such a speech?”

Yet, history seems to be repeating itself – in the recent incident involving 16-year old Amos Yee.

To keep it brief, Amos Yee was arrested and charged for content he posted online about Chritianity, the late Lee Kuan Yew and for a cartoon depiction of Mr Lee and the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Amos Yee is presently under remand for breaching his bail conditions.

On Thursday, as he was making his way to his pre-trial conference at the State Court, an unidentified man went up to him and assaulted him, smacking Amos Yee in the face, even as reporters’ cameras were rolling and clicking away.

What has followed is disconcerting.

Some people online are openly cheering the assault, nevermind that Amos is of the age of a minor, and the strike had resulted in injuries to his eye and face.

The cheering of the use of violence against a young man – a teen, really – is similar to the cheering of bigotry in the House back in 2007.

And one of those who silently gave the thumbs up to the assailant’s action was a former editor of the Straits Times, Bertha Henson.

She wrote on her Facebook page after the incident:

Bertha1

Ms Henson explained it in her blog.

Listing down the reaction of different groups of people to the assault on the boy, she said she belonged to group “b” which she describes as:

Bertha2

In other words, Ms Henson is saying yes, she would hit Amos Yee herself – if she “could or had the guts to” do it.

And she later makes it clear what it is she is cheering.

She says she “got vicarious pleasure from seeing the slap administered”.

But she adds that “that is about as far as I would go.”

bertha3

To see her condone or to take “vicarious pleasure” at a young boy being assaulted (whether in public or not) is quite disturbing.

This is especially so when the act is done right outside of the courts of justice.

In effect, condoning such an act – even if later in the article she claims to support the law being meted out to the assailant – is to condone disregard for the law.

It would be the same as someone else saying he is in effect condoning and supportive of such use of violence on Ms Henson just because he does not like what she writes on her blog, or how she behaves.

This seems lost on the former editor.

The use of physical violence on unsuspecting minors or children or young people cannot in any way be condoned in a civilised society.

So it is good to see the Law Minister, K Shanmugam, saying exactly this.

In a Facebook post, he said:

“Amos Yee was assaulted as he was going to court today. That is quite unacceptable.”

And:

“People may have strong feelings about Amos (or anyone else who is charged). But we have to leave it to the courts to deal with them. Taking the law into one’s own hands cannot be condoned.

“Rule of Law means respecting the legal process. If everyone starts taking the law into his or her own hands, then we will no longer be a civilised society.”

Thus far, one person has inflicted physical violence or harm on the teenager, which is against the law; another advocated wanting to “cut off his dick and stuff in his mouth”; several others support his rape in prison.

T4

T10b

It is thus unfortunate that those like Ms Henson and the so-called pitchfork lynch mob, which include a pro-PAP Facebook page, seem oblivious to the consequences of supporting – even if it is taking “vicarious pleasure” in the assault – and expressing such support for the use of violence, especially on minors and teens.

It degrades us as a people, as a society, as a young nation which aspires to be a gracious society and something greater.

Ms Henson says she expects to “be attacked by those who disagree with my group b choice and will call me all sorts of names and declare their ‘disappointment’’ ecetera.”

I think it goes beyond disappointment.

Amos Yee, with bruised eye

Amos Yee, with bruised eye

It is something more serious than that, and hopefully Ms Henson and those who condone the use of violence will realise this, and realise it sooner rather than later.

Just as MPs should not be cheering the bigoted speech of an NMP, we too should not, for whatever reasons, cheer the physical harm of anyone, let alone pain inflicted on young persons, just because we disagree with what they say or how they behave.

Now, has anyone asked if Amos Yee has received medical attention for his injuries?

Labour Day and our history of hope

By Dr Loh Kah Seng and Dr Thum Ping Tjin

On this Labour Day, in our 50th year of independence, it is timely to reflect on how the labour movement in the 1950s played a critical role in our history, in particular its role in our independence movement.

This history highlights three points: one, Singaporean workers organised a strong autonomous movement for labour rights and independence; two, the movement was a legitimate one, and was not subverted by the communists or anti-nationalists; and three, workers, in seeking to reform the capitalist system, framed these ideas in the context of anti-colonialism and self-determination.

 

Labour Rights and Singapore’s Independence

aerial view of singapore harbour and waterfron 1950_sm

An aerial view of the Singapore waterfront c1950. Source: National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

Singapore in the early 1950s was a wealthy colonial port – but one that was struck by great social inequality. Singapore was developed and rich, but that wealth was limited to a narrow English-speaking European and local elite. It was built on the exploitation of Singapore’s working class. There were no protections for workers, who suffered under oppressive working conditions – 18 hour working days, no days off or paid vacations, and legal discrimination against women, the elderly, and those who did not have qualifications from English-language schools. These anti-labour laws had long been struck down in the UK as inhumane, but continued to exist in its colonies. Only pro-government unions were permitted to exist, and strikes were illegal. Thanks to high unemployment, employers could fire workers who protested their working conditions, and replace them with cheaper workers from Singapore’s large pool of desperate residents. Healthcare, housing, and education were all largely private and very costly. All this was the consequence of a colonial economy which was responsible to London, not to Singapore’s people.

Consequently, it was the issue of labour rights which provided the greatest impetus for anti-colonialism and independence. It was the demand for fair treatment for workers and an end to legalised discrimination against the labouring class that gave the anti-colonial movement strength. The most successful political parties in Singapore were founded as the political wings of the trade union movement – initially the Labour Front representing the Singapore Trade Union Congress (STUC), and then, more impressively, the People’s Action Party (PAP) as the political wing of the “Middle Road” group of trade unions. When the Labour Front won the 1955 elections for partial self-government, it was STUC leader Lim Yew Hock who became the Minister of Labour alongside David Marshall as Chief Minister. The new attitude was immediately evident in response to the strike at the Hock Lee Bus Company.

 

The Strike against the Hock Lee Bus Company

Police use water hose to chase away bus drivers on strike outside the Hock Lee Bus depot

Police use water hose to chase away bus drivers on strike outside the Hock Lee Bus depot

In April 1955, the Singapore Bus Workers’ Union (SBWU) had no intention to strike against the Hock Lee Bus Company, but had to resort to one when the company tried to break the union. The company originally agreed terms with the union on 4 April 1955, but then quietly hired new workers and fired all unionised workers. This forced the union to call a strike, and workers picketed the depot and tried to prevent the buses from leaving. These events were well documented at the time in the Chinese, Malay, and Tamil newspapers, and entered into the official record during in the work of the government-appointed independent Court of Inquiry into the strike.[1]

The previous month, workers at the Paya Lebar Bus Company attempted to strike for better wages and working conditions. In response, the company summarily dismissed 22 workers and the strike was broken when 82 strikers were arrested by police.

However, by the time the strike at Hock Lee began, the new Labour Front government had assumed office. Instead of condemning the strike and sending in the police to arrest strikers, David Marshall sought to be fair, and to mediate between management and labour.  A Court of Inquiry ruled in favour of the workers but the company tried to avoid reinstating them via a technicality. This forced the pickets to reform, and angry Singaporeans joined them as word spread of the injustice. Some workers were hurt when the company tried to drive its buses through the pickets.

As frustrations grew, the atmosphere at the depot grew increasingly tense. After a two and a half week standoff, police and workers clashed, and a riot broke out.

The PAP, then a left-wing socialist party, accused the police of unprovoked violence. Lee Kuan Yew, the union’s legal adviser and Legislative Assembly Member for Tanjong Pagar, spoke in support of the strike in the Assembly on 16 May 1955. He pointed out that Singapore’s Chinese-speaking people and working class had legitimate grievances as they experienced systematic and repressive discrimination from the colonial government.[2]

Much of the reason for the strike, he argued, lay in the exploitative nature of labour-management relations in post-World War II Singapore, with employers – backed by the colonial government – not wanting to deal with the new independent unions established in the British mould. Chinese school students had supported the strike not because of communist propaganda, but because Chinese school graduates, like the workers, had limited job prospects.

However, the British and Singapore governments ignored the complex reasons behind popular discontent and framed the riots as a law and order issue. Throughout the strike, internal colonial memoranda and reports did not mention or evaluate the legitimacy of the workers’ grievances. Instead, they presented the management’s views and stressed that the various strikes were illegal under the Emergency Regulations due to a lack of sufficient advance notice.[3]

 

An Exaggerated Communist Threat

coldstore

Historians researching the imperial and local archives have found that the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) supported approved of the strike initially in principle, but were not responsible for it. In fact, there is conclusive evidence that it was actively discouraging violence.[4]

When the strikes took place, the MCP in Singapore was more or less a spent force. In 1950, its leadership was arrested. Two years later, the party had instructed its cadres in Singapore to peacefully support leftwing political parties. In 1954, the student infiltration branch was arrested followed shortly by the arrest of the entire labour infiltration branch (comprising, by then, just a single MCP cadre). By 1955, the only functioning section of the MCP in Singapore was the one responsible for publishing “Freedom News”, who were not activists and dealt only with propaganda.

It made little strategic sense for the party to foment disorder and risk a security crackdown when it could expand its influence through constitutional means under the Rendel Constitution of 1954. The Constitution partially lifted the repressive regime of the Emergency Regulations in giving elected Singaporeans some experience in self-government; thus from 1954, leftwing political groups and mass organisations were formed and Singapore politics became more contentious and vibrant.

Indeed, Special Branch documents placed primary responsibility for the riot on the PAP for seeking to exploit the strike for political gain, thus creating the conditions which led to the riot, not on the MCP.[5] However, the Special Branch still erred in viewing the riots as a case of external manipulation, rather than as a failure to address legitimate grievances. Lee Kuan Yew and Fong Swee Suan, both founder-members of the PAP, made strenuous efforts during the strike to keep frustrated union leaders at the negotiating table with management that repeatedly refused to make honour its agreements.

 

Labour’s Hope

Under pressure from David Marshall, Hock Lee Bus Company management capitulated and agreed to honour the April 1955 agreement. This marked the beginning of a new era in Singapore, where workers could genuinely fight for their rights. This in turn inspired other discriminated groups in Singapore to fight for their rights as well. But the colonial establishment continued to resist. It soon became clear that the only way for Singaporeans to have fairness and justice was for Singapore to free itself from colonialism and become an independent country, with a democratically elected government that was accountable to its people. The anti-colonial, left-wing, socialist, pro-labour PAP was elected in 1959 on precisely this platform: democracy via independence, either on its own or via reunification with Malaya.

Events such as the Hock Lee Bus strike should thus not be viewed as ‘days of rage’, as the Channel NewsAsia documentary last year termed it,[6] but as part of a history of hope. New, autonomous nationalists emerged in the more open political environment under the Rendel Constitution. Some, like leftwing union leaders Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan, were from the Chinese middle schools; others, such as leftwing intellectuals and activists Sydney Woodhull and Lim Hock Siew, graduated from the University of Malaya in Singapore; and some were educated abroad, including Fabian socialists Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Keng Swee.

They worked together, in the PAP, the unions, and other mass organisations, to win freedom and justice for Singapore. All of them at various points were suspected by the British as being tools of the communists, but there has never been any conclusive evidence that any of them took orders from the MCP.[7]

The convergence of these diverse groups of nationalists was instrumental to ending British colonialism. They had different ideologies (Fabian socialist, Marxist, or liberal-democratic), but were singularly dedicated to the formation of a free, socialist Malaya (including Singapore) through constitutional means. They were also internationalists in the sense that they were inspired by ideas of self-determination and modernisation prevailing throughout the world.

The period between the late 1940s and 1960s was an extraordinary time of political and cultural pluralism, where young, idealistic people were determined to cast out the old system and build a modern nation.

 

Working Singaporeans Today

Singapore crowd market street

Today, our view of the future has been dimmed by current challenges, such as the cost of living and economic uncertainty due to the global financial system, as well as by state policies on labour (including foreign labour) and the corporatisation of public services. At the same time, evident in the results of recent elections and growth in social activism (both in NGOs and the social media), there is continuing hope that we – Singaporean workers – may surmount our difficulties together, as our counterparts and political leaders did half a century ago in finding a path out of colonialism.

This parallels the challenges which faced us sixty years ago, and how we rose to meet them. On 3 May 1955, the Nanyang Siang Pau, the largest newspaper in Singapore, celebrated this new spirit in its editorial:

The Labour Front and the PAP are both Leftist political parties and have shown their unity in spirit with the working public in seeking reforms. If the party in power and the opposition parties can cooperate with mutual encourage, the future will be very bright. If would be possible then that society would be given an entirely new complexion, and reasonable and judicious reforms would be introduced into our system of production…. With a Leftist government making efforts to give fair treatment to workers and another Leftist party in opposition monitoring and making complaints on behalf of workers, they would cooperate and coordinate in a suitable way to speed up the necessary reforms and wipe out all injustice.[8]

We worked together then and made Singapore a prosperous country with equality of opportunity, justice, and democracy. Let us do so again to meet the challenges of our present and future.


Dr Loh is Assistant Professor at the Institute for East Asian Studies, Sogang University, and Dr Thum is Research Associate at the Centre for Global History, and co-ordinator of Project Southeast Asia, University of Oxford.

 

[1] Memorandum on the security situation in connection with the Hock Lee Bus Company dispute”, 17 May 1955, FCO 141/15158, UK National Archives.
[2] Singapore, Legislative Assembly Debates: Official Report, 16 May 1955 (Singapore: Government Printing Office, 1955), http://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/topic.jsp?currentTopicID=00052353-ZZ&currentPubID=00068855-ZZ&topicKey=00068855-ZZ.00052353-ZZ_1%2Bid002_19550516_S0002_T00021-motion%2B, last accessed 30 April 2015.
[3] “Singapore: Strikes and Internal Security 1955-56”, FCO 141/15158.
[4] See editorials in the Malayan Communist Party’s newsletter, Freedom News, Nos. 61, 64, 65.
[5] Memorandum on the security situation in connection with the Hock Lee Bus Company dispute, 17 May 1955, FCO 141/15158.
[6] Channel NewsAsia, Days of Rage, Episode 2: Hock Lee Bus Riots (Singapore: Channel NewsAsia, 2014).
[7] Thum, Ping Tjin, ‘The Fundamental Issue is Anti-colonialism, Not Merger’: Singapore’s “Progressive Left”,Operation Coldstore, and the Creation of Malaysia, ARI WPS 211, http://www.ari.nus.edu.sg/publication_details.asp?pubtypeid=WP&pubid=2354, last accessed 30 April 2015.
[8] Nanyang Siang Pau, 3 May 1955, p. 3

HOME: Eliminate wage discrimination by nationality and give domestic work its due recognition

HOME logo

We congratulate Mr Peter Seah as the new National Wages Council (NWC) chairperson. The Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) would like to take the opportunity to express and reiterate our organization’s stand as feedback to Singapore’s National Wages Guidelines for 2015/2016. HOME is a non-governmental organisation that works for the rights and welfare of migrant workers in Singapore. We believe that migrant workers should be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness during their time in Singapore.

Migrant workers make up approximately one-third of the country’s workforce. Yet, they continue to be extremely low wages, due to the lack of adequate employment protection.

Beyond the collective discrimination they face as a migrant population, their wages are discriminated by nationality in all sectors. Although we welcome the introduction of recommendations for sustainable wage increase for low-wage local workers since 2012, we see the urgent need for migrant workers to be included in the guidelines along with the declaration of non-discrimination with respect to their wages.

The average migrant on work permit earns a basic salary of $2 to $7 per hour and even $1.50 per hour in serious cases of economic abuse. Foreign worker levies remain exceedingly high, even higher than the average basic wage of a migrant worker. These levies discourage the payment of decent wages to migrant employees as employers aim to cover costs by transferring the financial burden onto the workers themselves.

The exclusion of domestic workers from the National Wage Guidelines persists. This reinforces the message that domestic work is not equal to other types of labour and is not deserving of equal rights. Not only should the guidelines be amended to include them, they should be extended to ensure that decent wages are paid. Housekeeping, care giving and cooking are skills which should be valued too.

The market practice of wage discrimination by employers and employment agencies according to national origin deeply affects domestic workers and migrant workers in other areas of work. In HOME’s experience interviewing and assisting thousands of migrant workers, we have found that South Asian workers earn significantly lesser than their Chinese and Malaysian counterparts, and all migrant workers earn significantly less than Singaporean workers, even though it is also our view that many low wage Singaporean workers are paid exploitative wages. Wage discrimination by nationality was one of the reasons bus drivers from SMRT went on strike in 2011.

Filipino domestic workers are paid the most whereas their counterparts from Myanmar and South Asia are paid the least.  As a society that prides itself on its meritocracy, it is shocking that such practices persist. Instead of leaving the fixing of wages on erroneous stereotypes and prejudice towards certain nationalities and races, determining wages based on skills and job scope is the right thing to do.

Besides affecting migrant workers, the exploitation of migrant workers is also detrimental to local workers. The absence of adequate employment protection for migrant workers makes it more advantageous and lucrative to hire migrant workers over Singaporeans, causing both parties to be on the losing end.

There is an urgent need for NWC to state categorically in their recommendations that employers should not determine wage levels by nationality or race and recognise domestic work as part of its guidelines. This helps bring us one step closer to making Singapore a great workplace for all.

SPP’s Labour Day message

SPPIn SPP’s Labour Day Message, Mr Chiam See Tong calls for greater salary growth, increased bargaining power and more investment in human resources. The statement can be read in full below.

My fellow Singaporeans,

Labour Day is a celebration of the working classes. We should not only recognize the contributions of workers – pledges must be made to better protect and promote their welfare and rights.

While the Government keeps assuring Singaporean workers that their real median incomes were growing, many workers feel that while price of their daily necessities keeps getting more expensive, their wages are not keeping up. The Hays Asia Salary Guide released in January 2015 indeed confirms that the salary growth in Singapore is failing to keep pace with the tight labour market.

There is a general perception that the NTUC, which is led by a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, is just another arm of the Government. They call this arrangement ‘Tripartism’. But in the face of strong corporate lobbying and Government pressures, the interests of the workers will always remain subservient to these.

Last year Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMET) accounted for 51% of layoffs. A large amount of unemployed and underemployed PMET have to unfairly compete for jobs in industries such as security, hospitality and healthcare sectors. As the Tripartite Alliance on Fair Employment Practices’ (TAFEP) guidelines seem inadequate to better protect our older workers, there is a need to legislate policies to better safeguard the interests of such workers.

Recent initiatives of our Government like SkillsFuture too, though well-intentioned, only gives our workers who tap on them skills and competencies that are needed for the jobs and industries that we have at hand today. Many jobs and industries that were labour-intensive and relevant in the past are no longer here today. What skills and competencies will the jobs of the future require from its workers? As we may have no idea what these may be, it may be better to develop the talents of our workers and have policies to support such talent acquisition.

From sluggish salary growths, to lack of bargaining-power, to insufficient investment in human resources, the challenges of the Singaporean workers are many. This Labour Day, we pledge to stand with the workers of Singapore and be their voice to advocate for better outcomes in these areas.

Happy Labour Day!

Chiam See Tong

Secretary-General, Singapore People’s Party (SPP)


 

劳动节献词 2015

亲爱的新加坡同胞们,

劳动节是一个庆祝工人阶级的节日。我们不仅要认识到工人的贡献——还必须作出承诺,以保护和促进他们的福利和权利。

虽然政府一直试图让新加坡职工相信,他们实际收入的中位数处于增长中,但很多工人仍觉得日常必需品的整体价格都在上升,他们的工资水平并没有跟上。2015年1月份发布的瀚纳仕亚洲薪酬指南(Hays Asia Salary Guide)也证实了这一点,新加坡工资增长的水平未能跟上劳工市场紧张的步伐。

对于由总理办公室的部长领导的全国职工总会(NTUC),大家有种很普遍的看法,那就是它不过是政府的另一条手臂罢了。他们将这种安排称之为“三方机制”。但在强大的企业游说和政府压力面前,工人的利益总是处于屈从的状态。

去年,专业人士、经理、行政人员和技术人员(PMET)占裁员总人数的51%。 大量失业和就业不足的PMET不得不在保安、酒店和医疗部门等行业展开不公平的竞争。既然劳资政公平雇佣联盟(TAEFEP)的指导方针看起来不足以保护我们的老职工,我们就需要立法颁布新的政策来更好的保障这些工人的利益。

政府近期的一些举措如 SkillsFuture 也是如此,虽然有着好的动机,但只能给参加的工人他们目前就职的工作和行业所需要的技能和竞争力。过去那种劳动密集型以及相关的很多工作和行业今天已不复存在。未来的工作需要它的职工们拥有什么样的技能和竞争力?我们对于答案一无所知,所以在我们工人中培养人才以及建立扶持这种人才培养的政策或许才是更好的选择。

从薪资增长的低迷,到议价能力的薄弱,再到对人力资源不充足的投资,新加坡工人面临的挑战非常多。值此劳动节到来之际,我们承诺和新加坡的工人站在一起,为他们发声,力图在这些领域促成更好的成果。

劳动节快乐!

詹时中

新加坡人民党(SPP),秘书长

Law Minister K Shanmugam condemns Amos Yee’s assailant

In a Facebook post, Minister for Law K Shanmugam denounced the actions of the man who had hit Amos Yee, just as the 16 year old was attending court yesterday for his bail review in relation to him posting a video critical of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Amos Yee's assailant flees the scene after striking him across the face. (Image by Mediacorp)

Amos Yee’s assailant flees the scene after striking him across the face. (Image by Mediacorp)

The unidentified assailant was filmed by media walking up to Yee and striking him on the face. As the assailant fled the scene, he could also be heard shouting, “Come and sue me!”

We also understand the police has confirmed that a police report has been filed against Yee’s assailant and investigations are under way.

Mr Shanmugam also revealed that the charge of harassment against Yee has been stood down. This does not mean the charges are dropped, but that the prosecution will proceed with two other charges first, according to a spokesperson from the AGC.

The following was Mr Shanmugam’s Facebook post:

Amos Yee was assaulted as he was going to court today. That is quite unacceptable.

Amos made some statements which are offensive to Christians. He is being charged for that and for an obscenity related issue. ( I understand that the charge in respect of his statements on Mr Lee Kuan Yew have been stood down.)

People may have strong feelings about Amos (or anyone else who is charged). But we have to leave it to the courts to deal with them. Taking the law into one’s own hands cannot be condoned.

Rule of Law means respecting the legal process. If everyone starts taking the law into his or her own hands, then we will no longer be a civilised society. I hope that the attacker will be caught quickly, and is dealt with appropriately.

However, Yee’s lawyer Mr Alfred Dodwell informed TOC that he was not alerted to the standing down of the harassment charge at any point during the court proceedings yesterday. He also said:

“I want all three charges to go ahead. The Prosecution should either drop the charge or go ahead with it. We can’t have it hanging over our client’s head. There seems to be no reason to stand down the charge as it is in relation to the same video.”

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Amos’ eyes and cheeks were swollen after the blow. (Image by Alfred Dodwell)

Yee is currently in remand as he was held to be in breach of his bail conditions when he posted on his blog and his Facebook page earlier yesterday. The current bail amount stands at $30,000.

Vincent Law, a youth counselor who was Amos Yee's first bailor.

Vincent Law, a youth counselor who was Amos’ first bailor.

Vincent Law, the Youth Counsellor who first bailed Yee out when the bail amount stood at $20,000, has discharged himself. When asked why, he said:

I discharged myself as Amos was not willing to abide by the conditions of the bail. I would also like to add that I hope the media would just leave him alone. After all, he’s only a kid.

Furthermore, I think Amos should be assessed psychologically, which was the main reason why I bailed him in the first place. Unfortunately, the appointment at a local institute could not be pushed forward earlier. I hope the prison authorities would facilitate his assessment while he is in remand.

Amos Yee's Lawyer, Alfred Dodwell, speaking to the press. (Image by Ng Yi Shu)

Amos’ lawyer, Mr Dodwell, speaking to the press. (Image by Ng Yi Shu)

Yee’s lawyer, Mr Dodwell, who released a press statement to clarify why he chose to defend Amos, indicated that it was the client’s choice on whether they want to comply with the conditions of bail.

“We always advise our clients to comply with all conditions. But if a client chooses not to comply, we don’t father the client. We tell the client what to do and if the client refuses to do so, we do ask why, but we don’t probe further than that. They face the consequences of their actions.”