Posted by Sinapan Samydorai under Breaking News on 30 April 2004

There are about 1 million Singaporeans with GCE 'O' level or lower then secondary education, ageing, and prone to unemployment. They do not have fair and equal opportunity in terms of employment. Singapore must respect the rights of all Workers and eliminate discrimination in employment.

Trade unions around the world call for the respect for workers' rights




The Singapore employment situation is said to be improving. Job insecurity remains and strutural unemployment stands above 4 percent. Workers' wages have not increased and purchasing power is still low although they work longer hours to keep their job. But the GST has increased to 5 percent affecting all consumers.

Women are discriminated as they are paid lower then the man on the same job. Migrant women domestic workers are worse off as they are seen as slaves and our labour laws hardly protect them from abuses. Like Singaporean workers, migrant workers must be accorded their rights to fair and decent wages, annual leave, off on public holidays, social security, and recognition of their human dignity.

Moreover, the working conditions are not family-friendly. Job insecurity and long hours of work deprives the family of quality time and recuperative rest. As result, we have more dysfunctional families, inter-spousal disputes, children with deviant behavioral problems and abuse of domestic workers'.

There are about 1 million Singaporeans with GCE 'O' level or lower then secondary education, ageing, and prone to unemployment. They do not have fair and equal opportunity in terms of employment. Even if they work harder and long hours for low pay will not save the job. They live in fear of being jobless any moment and they are the mercy of their employer.

In light of the recent construction site accidents at Nicoll Highway and Ayer Rajah, Think Centre calls on fellow Singaporeans to show their compassion, solidarity and support for one another regardless of race, language, religion and nationality. May Day is an international event bringing workers together in global solidarity.

The origin of May Day is traced backed to 1880's - the celebration of the working class's successful struggle for eight-hour work-day. Unfortunately, today many Singaporeans are forced to work 12-hours shift, as the labour law permits. They have to work long hours to secure their jobs and increase their take home pay - there is no minimum wage in Signapore.

Global solidarity is necessary to maintain the rights workers have achieved. Without solidarity its impossible to gain more fundamental rights such as a 40 hour work-week, minimum wage and decent working conditions. Let's not forget those who are killed and other who have lost their fingers, limbs or were injury, those who lost their health, due to unsafe working conditions.

Think Centre makes the following recommendations to the Singapore government, employers, trade unions and all workers:

1. To uphold the principles of treating each other with respect and dignity, and to contribute constructively to the communities in need, especially to the new poor, unemployed and victims of workplace accidents and their families.

2. To stop all forms of discrimination towards all workers especially, migrant domestic workers, women workers, and migrant workers who sacrifice their lives along with Singaporean workers in work accidents.

3. The governemnt to do more to provide economic, pyschological and socio-cultural reliefs to victims and families of the unemployed and victims of workplace accidents and their families. For example, children of workplace accident,especially the young children of the workers killed at Nicoll Highway and Ayer Rajah, regardless of the nationality, be provide with free access to education [until they complete university education].

4. To adopt policies to secure decent work in conditions of freedom, security and human dignity. The government should provide more support for the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises and their coverage by a social security system, as well as continue to focus on education, skill training and health-care to improve the ability of workers to be employable.

5. To update deficient labour legislation by removing or amending outdated policies such as:

5.1. A new 40-hour work week and a minimum wage policy;

5.2. Stronger labour law to protect against discrimination of older workers, gender, race and religion, physical disabilities and foreign domestic workers;

5.3. Greater support for retrenched and unemployed workers through a national insurance scheme, as well as to provide a reasonable living with access to housing, healthcare, re-training and other essentials for a new life;

5.4 Remove the practice of piling up overtime work as requested by employees so companies need not pay double for work on rest days;

5.5 Remove the practice of deducting salaries of overtime work for food and housing for employees;

5.6 Remove the practice of giving employees working 11 hours (shift work) daily for 30 days only 1 rest day per month for the first year in the service industry;

5.7 Remove the practice of forcing foreign workers refusing to sign their terms of contract to pay their own return tickets home and the company liquidated damages of around S$1,000; or changing the original contract to lower wages

5.8 Amend the 1973-policy which requires prior permission for work permit holders to marry locals. Instead those with relevant skills and who have worked in Singapore for 4 years should be free to marry locals;

5.9 Remove excessive limitations on the right to organise workers eg Registrar of Trade Unions has powers to refuse or cancel registration, which could be used to obstruct the establishment of a trade union or impose a single union structure.

Think Centre wishes all Singaporean and foreign workers happy May First. To celebrate the day in solidarity with millions of workers around the world. No matter where we live, whatever we do, whatever our colour and creed, all working people are called to celebrate global solidarity on May first. This is a day to celebrate the acheivements and a reminder to continue their solidarity to improve their livelihood.

For more information contact:

Sinapan Samydorai
Think Centre
HP: 9479 1906

Sources and Relevant Links:

Think Centre Invitation to Forum: Celebrate Workers' Day

The State Enterprise Labour Relation Confederation Thailand: Statement on May Day 1st 2004

Singapore_Reveiw Unemployment really going down?

Think Centre End to promise of a secure life

Singapore_Review Singapore Reserves cracked wide open

ICFTU May Day Manifesto 2004

Today, May 1st 2004, workers all over the world are celebrating the achievements of trade unions, and expressing their hopes for the future. More than ever before, in this globalised world, the situation of workers in one part of the world is linked to the challenges faced by workers in another. More than ever, an injury to one is an injury to all. Never has the need for effective international solidarity been more pressing.

ICFTU May Day: Trade unions around the world call for the respect for workers' rights 30/4/2004

Convention (No. 111) 1958 and Convention (No. 100) 1951

The Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (No. 111) adopted in 1958 calls on States to adopt national policies to eliminate discrimination in access to employment, training, and working conditions on the basis of the following: race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction, and/or social origin. Discrimination is defined as distinction, exclusion, or preference based on the above categories. The Equal Remuneration Convention (No. 100) of 1951 requires equal pay for men and women for work of equal value. Both are widely ratified.

Discrimination in employment and pay also undermines human dignity and development and impedes economic growth by under-utilizing and misallocating human capital resources. Discrimination in employment can exacerbate poverty among already-vulnerable women and minorities.


Convention No. 87
Convention Concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948)

Convention No. 98
Convention Concerning the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organise and to Bargain Collectively (1949)

Singapore has not ratified Convention 87

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