by Augustine Low
The proposal by the Workers’ Party for a minimum wage of $1,300 as a “moral imperative” and an “act of national solidarity” was swiftly shot down.
National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) deputy secretary-general Koh Poh Koon said that amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, “many companies especially our SMEs, such as those in the construction sector, are suffering and not quite out of the woods.”
He added that while more could be done to help the lowest paid in Singapore, “the cure should not be worse than the problem it tries to solve.”
The following day, the National Wages Council announced that it had given the green light for temporary wage cuts by companies in order to save jobs.
The council did not set a quantum for the wage cuts but said employees should be told how wages will eventually be restored.
So it’s a double whammy for Singaporean workers – on the one hand, the proposal for a minimum wage is shot down but on the other, employers are given the leeway to cut salaries if and when they see fit.
Another proposal earlier by the WP for a “per flight environmental tax” on Singapore Airlines for operating flights to nowhere was not only shot down but mocked.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung stressed that “this is really not the time to talk about an environmental tax on SIA” because the pandemic has put the airline in a dire situation.
Amrin Amin, the losing People’s Action Party candidate for Sengkang GRC, then jumped into the fray by mocking the WP’s Jamus Lim: “If a PAP MP had suggested this, many colourful adjectives will be coughed out. But I suppose we can be charitable and just call the less than compassionate suggestion – noise pollution?”
We should ask Amrin Amin whether it is compassionate to make Singaporeans cough out fee increases during a severe economic downturn.
Which is exactly what is happening with the recently announced triple fee hikes for Singaporeans.
Firstly, ERP fees for parts of the Central Expressway during peak hours have already been raised, secondly, there is a 9.3 percent electricity tariff hike for the final quarter of this year and thirdly, premiums for MediShield Life are set to go up by as much as 35 percent in the next few years.
Do you detect the warped logic?
During a recession, no extra burden must be placed on businesses. Yet it is apparently okay to pass the burden to suffering Singaporeans – the green light is given for wage cuts but not minimum wage, and for hiking MediShield premiums and utility and ERP charges at a time when there is rising unemployment.
Aren’t Singaporean workers already reeling from the worst recession since independence? Yet the burden keeps piling up for them.
What else is next?