During the recent parliamentary debate over President Halimah Yacob’s address, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament for Sengkang GRC, Ms He Tingru, emphasized the importance of Unity in Diversity in the face of increasing global turbulence. She also highlighted the need to support and protect the rights of invisible and blue-collar workers in Singapore.

Ms He expressed her hopes for the House to embrace diversity in backgrounds, cultures, abilities, and political views. To achieve greater inclusivity and accommodation, she emphasized that the principle of diversity must be central to Singapore’s systems, including education, built environment, and the workplace.

Focusing on the workforce, Ms He drew attention to two groups needing further support: invisible workers undertaking unpaid labour and blue-collar workers, including migrant workers.

She reiterated the Workers’ Party’s call for greater recognition of unpaid labour and the need to protect these workers from poverty in their later years. Ms He proposed time-use surveys to quantify their work and monitor policy success.

Ms He stressed the need for holistic support for caregivers, including flexible work arrangements and meaningful accommodations, while addressing internal barriers preventing them from fully benefiting from these schemes.

Regarding blue-collar and migrant workers, Ms He urged addressing key issues that emerged during the pandemic, such as heat inequality and workplace safety.

She called for urgent measures to ensure the safety of outdoor workplaces and tackle structural issues contributing to unsafe working environments.

Ms He lamented the dignity deficit experienced by migrant workers, citing recent episodes relating to inadequate nutrition, poor food handling practices, and subpar standards for foreign worker dormitories. She also called for banning the dangerous practice of transporting workers in the back of lorries.

As Singapore grapples with the challenges of an increasingly complex world, Ms He’s calls for unity, inclusivity, and worker rights protection resonate strongly.

Ms He emphasized the importance of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation for a more diverse and equal society in Singapore. She discussed the upcoming workplace fairness law, expressing concerns regarding its coverage of various forms of discrimination. She quoted a Milieu Insight report which found that 1 in 2 workers in Singapore experienced workplace discrimination in the last five years.

Ms He highlighted the importance of accessibility for disabled workers in the new legislation, urging simplification and streamlining of the discrimination claim process.

Lastly, Ms He emphasized that the upcoming workplace fairness legislation should be seen as only the first step toward a more diverse and equal Singapore, as it does not address discrimination in other aspects of life, such as schools, housing rentals, and healthcare. She urged Singapore to consider enacting comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.

Ms He also shared her thoughts on trust as an essential component of a healthy relationship between the government and the people. She acknowledged the high levels of trust Singaporeans have in government and public institutions but stressed that trust must be present in both directions.

Ms He suggested that one way to demonstrate and build trust in the people is by making more information available to the public.

The Workers’ Party manifesto proposes enacting a Freedom of Information Act, with exceptions for national security and defense matters.

Ms He argued that having more information in the public domain leads to a more informed society and enhances democracy, transparency, and community decision-making.

Addressing concerns about the costs of enacting such laws or the possibility of civil servants attempting to circumvent freedom of information requests, Ms He expressed her hope for more faith in the integrity and professionalism of the civil service.

She cited a 2019 article in the Harvard Business Review, which stated that giving trust empowers recipients, leading to stronger contributors and further empowerment of leaders.

In conclusion of her speech, Ms He emphasized that the next step for Team Singapore is to continue building mutual trust between the government and the people, using it as a strong foundation to achieve unity in diversity.

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