The Deputy Secretary-General of the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC), Koh Poh Koon has criticised the universal minimum wage scheme (of S$1300 per month) proposed by the Workers’ Party as a policy that could lead to a “political auction”
Koh, who is also a member of parliament for Tampines Group Representative Constituency (GRC) was of the opinion that the Government’s current Progressive Wage Model (PWM) (which is mandatory for the cleaning, security and landscape sectors) already ensure that the vast majority of low-wage workers earn more than S$1,300 a month. Yet, this does not take into account the fact (as raised by Pritam Singh of the Worker’s Party) that the PWM takes “too long” to implement.
As posited by Singh: “‘it has been eight years, with three sectors covered. This is far too long for Singaporeans who work outside these sectors. How long are they to wait?”
Koh said: “In a political contest, a political party will surely come along and say, well, $1,500 will reflect higher ‘moral imperatives’. Yet another will come along and say $1,300 is good, $1,500 is better, but $1,700 must surely be more divine, more imperative. It can become a political auction.”
As the deputy leader of the national trade union, wouldn’t Koh want more workers to quickly benefit from higher wages than just those from 3 sectors? Why is he talking about politics? Does this highlight a potential conflict of interest here? Is Koh’s political position affecting his ability to ensure that all workers are adequately protected?
Should Koh be both trade union leader and MP at the same time?
Besides, so what if there is a political auction? Isn’t that what general election campaigns are about to some extent – that people vote for the party that can provide them with policies that will most improve their lives?
At the end of the day, a minimum wage of S$1300 is not going to be something that will break the bank if (in Koh’s words) the vast majority of low wage earners already earn more than S$1300? If most workers already earn more than that, why not just formalise it then?
Most first world countries have a minimum wage scheme. A minimum wage ensures that every worker is able to support his or her family and live with dignity. How can this be sacrificed out of a remote fear for political auctioneering? The two are not even comparable!
Besides, if there are any instances of political auctioneering, it is arguable that it is the Peoples’ Action Party’s apparent pre election sweeteners (such as pay outs before the July 2020) that fall foul.