20130705 Low wage issue needs solutions, not more union control

In ST “Raising low wage workers’ pay an uphill task” (3 July), credit seems to have been given to the government for its efforts to increase workers’ pay despite these being failed ones. Repeatedly over at least a decade.

The article stated 8 in 10 unionised companies had followed NWC recommendations for workers earning up to $1000. Short on inconvenient details such as the 100,000 earning slave wages of below $1000, as usual about ST, the article did not address the epic failure of those in charge.

Singapore, though run like a company, rewards its ‘CEOs’ without any private sector accountability.

The 41 year old NWC, which is under the NTUC, has been way behind the curve. Any tinkering with wage increase after a decade of stagnation will not work.

The shallow article then went on to suggest unionising more companies because the NWC recommendations were hardly implemented. MP Zainal Sapari blamed service buyers for low wages despite the fact that the cause is our government’s pro business policies.

So long as foreigners continue to flood the low wage market, is there any chance of real wages rising? Put it another way, if foreigners from similar countries are allowed to be our politicians, would their remuneration be a million dollars, pesos, renminbi or rupiah?

Politicians designed a different playing field for themselves so they cannot understand ordinary and low wage workers. Coupled with bad policies, this is a perfect recipe for perpetual failure.

Unionising more workers means more control and if the control of more than half a million workers presently has not worked, does the NTUC wish to be an even bigger failure?

More lame excuses are shoved down workers’ throats because there is simply no accountability in our system i.e. no union leader has taken responsibility but instead getting higher indecent income year after year while a larger percentage of citizens suffer.

If every citizen deserves decent wages and all NTUC’s efforts have been exhausted, it is about time to implement minimum wages similar to the majority of countries in the world. Dishing out grants and financial aids to employees year after year is not the solution but rather an effort to mask subsidies to businesses. On the surface, it creates the illusion of low business costs but the reality is the costs are borne by citizens. What about problems caused by businesses?

The myriad problems created by such a system are getting out of control and such a system will likely implode in the near future. Politicians will of course frame this as a chicken and egg situation but it is really more like a circus.

The failure of union leaders continues to be masked in the media. While employees’ wage increments are subject to an increase in productivity, union leaders have never been accountable for their epic failure to realise this objective.

Because of its near total control of labour, NTUC has designed is a system which squeezes the lowest end of society in order to contain costs for businesses, ostensibly for our benefit. As fair minded citizens, do we want to benefit from such a system? Just look around you, are you happy to see all the elderly in menial labour and fellow citizens experiencing stress as a result of flawed policies?

Is more control the only solution the best brains in government could come up with? Do we want to be subject to more control by inept unions, our voices further diminished?

Phillip Ang

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