May Day! May Day!
As we celebrate the public holiday of May Day on
First, workers in Singapore are supposed to be represented, and their interests served by, the NTUC or National Trades Union Congress, founded in 1961, as a national federation of trade unions of workers in the industrial, service and public sectors currently with 67 trade unions and 6 affiliated associations and a total membership of 322,000.
However, although it 'represents' 322,000 workers, it probably employs more than that number in its various businesses, from supermarkets to insurance, from operating childcare centres to building private houses. Its perspective is therefore, arguably, more of that of an employer than an employee, its mission more to make money than to look after its workers.
The following are some of the many businesses in which the NTUC has a finger in the pie: FairPrice, INCOME, Childcare, Choice Homes, Denticare, Eldercare, Foodfare, Healthcare, Media, Thrift, 8 Subsidiary Companies, 5 Associated Companies, Major share in one listed company, Orchid Country Club, Aranda Country Club, among others.
More tellingly, its chief is always a cabinet minister from the PAP, currently Lim Boon Heng. Of course, it may be possible for a ranking PAP man to wear many hats, such as that of being a PAP minister and that of being a trade unionist, but surely not two hats at the same time?
It is therefore suspect whether to Lim Boon Heng, the interests of the party comes first (and he is beholden to the party which appoints him) or the interests of the workers of
For example, take the National Wages Council.
This is the supreme body which recommends (and its recommendations are almost always accepted into national wage policy) such things as wage increases for the year. On it are 3 parties: the government, the employers and -- instead of the workers, the NTUC! (For the current composition of the NWC, see below).
From just a cursory glance at the composition of the NWC, it is clear that firstly, even foreigners have a say on how much
Note also that nobody in the NWC earns the typical worker's salary of about $1,000 to $2,000 a month. Everybody on the council earns more than that, most a great deal more. Can such a council then, do justice to the vast majority of workers who earn far less than them?
The trade union movement is just one of the many institutions that have become a 'casualty' of the PAP, meaning Lee Kuan Yew. The other casualties are known to all who attended the 28 April rally at Yio Chu Kang Stadium and heard Mr Jeyaretnam speak.
It is therefore no wonder that there hasn't been a strike or other industrial action by workers for decades. It is not that the workers are happy with their lot, it is that the workers are led by a conspiracy of the employers and the government, both of whom have an interest in not letting the workers articulate their wishes, or find somebody who can.
In the old days, unionists were even jailed without trial under the Internal Security Act, which is still law today. There is no need for that now because the PAP has taken over the business of the unions.
Thus May Day will come and go without real meaning, as so many May Days before it. Other countries may well celebrate the worker and his contributions, but in
Chairman, National Wages Council
Mr Khaw Boon Wan
Dr Tan Chin
Mr Liew Heng San
Dr Lee Tsao Yuan
Mr Lim Swee Say
Mr John De Payva
Mr Cyrille Tan
Mr Paul Tan
Mr Tan Soon Yam
Mr Stephen C Y Lee
Mr Kwek Leng Joo
Mr Nobukatsu Manabe
Mr Edmund Huebner
Mr Gregory Brusberg
Mr Heng Chee How
Mr Teoh Yong Sea
Mr Lau Chung Keong, Robin
Mr Seng Han Thong
Mr Ong Yen Her
Mr Boon Yoon Chiang
Mr Nithiah Nandan
Ms Lim Soo Hoon
Mr Yutaka Mizuno
Mr Ong Chin Ang
Mr Tang Hsiu Chin
Mr Ulrich Wasserbaech
Mr Goh Wee Liam
(NWC membership taken from http://www.gov.sg/mom/gen/mpnspec/members.htm)