The Workers’ Party’s (WP) proposal of setting up a universal minimum wage of S$1,300 had earned criticism by the union leaders recently.
Some union leaders told TODAY that the lowest salaries in some sectors are already above S$1,300, adding that the formulated policies were based on data and the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) leaders’ knowledge of ground sentiments.
Arasu Duraisamy, who is a general secretary of the Singapore Port Workers’ Union, claimed that the union’s proposals will not be accepted by business leaders if the proposals were formed based on “words from the man on the ground”.
Moreover, the Healthcare Services Employees Union’s president K Thanaletchmi indicated WP’s minimum wage proposal could “drag everybody downwards” as workers with higher salaries may end up having their salaries reduced to S$1,300.
“On what basis do they think S$1,300 is enough? In today’s day and age, I think S$1,300 is too low. I am kind of baffled by the proposition made by WP. Is it truly by data and statistics?” said Ms Thanaletchmi.
She added that the union has been engaging with the hospitals to increase the sector’s lowest-paid workers’ wages to S$1,500, which will be done via job redesign and the upskilling of its staff.
Meanwhile, some of them condemned WP’s Associate Professor Jamus Lim’s remarks “folksy wisdoms and beliefs” in Parliament.
To recap, NTUC deputy secretary-general Koh Poh Koon had argued that WP’s proposed policy of setting a universal minimum wage could lead to unemployment as businesses may face unsustainable higher costs.
Dr Koh claimed that the tripartite partners already look at data in their discussions, and it showed that the practical considerations of implementing minimum wage may be challenging.
He also brought up Hokkien idioms used by a union member to illustrate this and the colloquial wisdom lying behind these phrases.
To this, Associate Professor Lim responded that WP’s proposal is based on studies that show that a minimum wage does not lead to an increase in unemployment, and is not based on “folksy wisdom and beliefs of labour union leaders”.
Following that, NTUC assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong told TODAY that the tripartite partners’ decision of implementing a sectoral approach to increase the low-wage workers’ salaries were made based on union leaders’ research of how minimum wage is applied in other countries’ jurisdictions.
However, she added that different union leaders in various sectors disagree on the appropriate wage level.
“To say that it is totally baseless, based on our wisdom and beliefs, cannot be right. How can we do things this way? I mean there are 6,000 union leaders, you mean they are all fools?” said Ms Cham.
“I think everybody is subject to your own views, that one we can respect, but please do not belittle the unions,” she continued.
Commenting on Assoc Prof Lim’s remarks, Sanjeev Tiwari, a general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees, branded his remarks as “over-generalisation” and that it discredits all the hard work of union leaders.
“Yes, we all want wages to increase, but that comes with some compromises,” said Mr Tiwari.
He explained that employers’ profit-making agenda requires every decision-maker to consider all factors, complemented with data, and then to come up with a solution.
Netizens point out WP’s minimum wage proposal was meant for all sectors, not some sectors
Over on social media, a handful of netizens questioned the union leaders on the minimum wage of low-income workers from other sectors.
Penning their thoughts in the comments section of TODAY’s Facebook post, they pointed out that WP’s proposal of setting up a universal minimum wage of S$1,300 was meant to help low-wage workers from all sectors, not to set “a maximum wage”.
Some netizens opined that the union leaders’ responses only revealed their “folksy wisdom”.
While others questioned the union leaders’ contribution to workers, as they seem to only support employers.