Labour Day Rally at Hong Lim Park demands fairer working conditions in Singapore

Labour Day Rally at Hong Lim Park demands fairer working conditions in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Workers Make Possible (WMP) organized a Labour Day rally at Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park on 1 May, bringing together over 300 workers from diverse backgrounds to advocate for decent, safe working conditions, living wages, and the fulfillment of basic needs such as housing, healthcare, food, and education.

Despite Singaporean workers logging some of the longest hours globally, many struggle to afford necessities and hesitate to take sick leave, speak up against abuse and discrimination, or request fairer wages and working conditions.

United in solidarity, the rally called for a just and equal society where everyone can truly benefit from their labour and enjoy fulfilling lives with adequate rest, leisure, family and community time, and the right to retire without fear of poverty.

The event, marking the first independent Labour Day rally by the people in decades, featured inspiring speeches, engaging performances, and catchy songs.

Among the speakers were Cik Erah, a single mother discussing the challenges faced by low-income families; Staffan, a registered nurse emphasizing the need for better treatment of healthcare workers; and Swanhilda Kaur, the event’s organizer, who has experienced exploitation and abuse as a minimum wage worker.

The rally, organized around the People’s 15 Demands, called for political action and aimed to remind attendees of the historical significance of Labour Day, which commemorates hard-won victories like the eight-hour workweek.

Kokila Annamalai, a member of Workers Make Possible and one of the rally organizers, expressed hope that political leaders would listen to the working class’s demands for change, including minimum wages, the right to rest, and social protections.

The People’s 15 Demands for Labour Day

  1. STOP the 2% GST Hike and INTRODUCE a 2% wealth tax on the richest 1% in Singapore.
  2. Implement a minimum wage for ALL workers that reflects decent living standards:
    —$2000 basic per month for full-timers
    —$15 per hour for part-timers workers
    —$18 per hour for casual workers (higher rate to make up for uncertainty in hours and availability of work)
    —$6 per trip minimum fare guarantee for delivery riders,
    —$1000 per month for migrant domestic workers (along with abolishing levy), as a first step
  3. Ensure ALL workers have enough rest including:
    —The right to sit for workers in retail, F&B and other sectors where workers stand for long hours
    —The right not to respond to calls/messages/emails after work hours
    —Mandatory 1 rest day per week for migrant domestic workers via including them in the Employment Act
    —14 days paid sick leave without needing to provide MC
    —Take strict action against companies which require workers find a replacement before allowing them to take sick leave
    —Strict cut-off at 20-hour shifts for healthcare workers, as a first step, with a view to move towards 12-hour shifts
    —Paid lunch breaks for all workers working a full day’s shift
    —12 hours protected rest time a day for domestic and eldercare workers
  4. Provide all workers the right and the financial security to look for suitable work:
    —Provide weekly unemployment benefits for all retrenched workers till they find their next job
    —Guarantee all workers  the right to freely transfer employers
  5. Introduce workplace fairness laws that protect all workers from all forms of discrimination and abuse, and abolish current laws that enable abuse and bondage of workers
  6. Give workers direct power to make decisions about occupational health and safety matters
  7. Allow all workers the right to unionise, and allow labour and trade unions to function independently and freely, so as to strengthen the effectiveness of labour laws and protections
  8. Extend overtime pay to all workers earning 4.5k a month or less
  9. Introduce education on local labour laws and international labour standards into upper secondary school civic education or social studies syllabus
  10. Expand the Silver Support Scheme to ensure that all seniors aged 65 and above will have at least $1,500 per month in retirement income
  11. Make essential foods like milk powder, rice and oil affordable for all through price controls and other measures
  12. Make quality healthcare affordable and accessible for all:
    —Put more public funds towards expanding healthcare services
    —Ensure that everyone, regardless of residential status or income, can get the treatment they need at the time they need it
  13.  Care for the vulnerable and bring stability to families by making COMCARE payments faster, larger and for longer periods
  14. Make sure that those who need welfare and social support schemes don’t have to jump through hoops or endure humiliation. No one should be denied access to necessary welfare on the basis of nationality, employment status, family size, the income of relatives, or other factors.
  15. Ensure that everyone has access to decent, safe and affordable housing:
    —Take seriously the progressive proposals made by independent experts, civil society groups and opposition parties to address the current housing crisis
    —End housing discrimination against singles, divorced people, ethnic minorities and other groups
    —Build and increase access to bigger, high quality, subsidised public rental housing flats
    —Improve living conditions in worker dormitories
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