War of words over low wage workers
WP's Low and PAP MPs cross swords on foreign worker policy
By Sue-Ann Chia
In his 20-minute speech, the Hougang MP lashed out at the strategy of maximising growth in the past decade, pointing out that it has caused salaries of low-income workers to stagnate and, in turn, widened the income gap.
He placed the responsibility for helping the low-income achieve higher wages on the Government's shoulders. 'It is easy to blame our local workforce for low productivity but who opened the gates to allow foreign workers to flood the labour market in the first place?' he said.
'Easy access to cheap foreign labour offers little incentive for companies to up their productivity... The Government has to assume some responsibility for the low productivity in the last decade.'
He wanted the Government to improve their pay soon and not wait for productivity gains to reach the target set in 10 years. 'How long more must our low-wage workers wait to enjoy a First World pay?' he asked.
Both accused him of ignoring government measures like Workfare to supplement the income of low-wage earners.
'Without the levies, foreign workers are even cheaper and even more attractive to businesses. And some of these businesses will find loopholes to get round the quotas, to get more of the cheaper foreign workers,' said Mrs Teo.
On Ms Ng's point that higher wages lead to higher cost of living, he said: 'That could happen... But can we say that because we're worried about the cost going up, then we... want a section of our society to continue to be impoverished?
The question is what jobs can they do and what are the jobs worth? If we pay them more than what their jobs are worth in order for them to have a minimum wage, we inflate costs that will be passed on down the consumption line. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Somewhere down the line the buck, and the bill stops and someone has to pay for it. Unless suggestions propose a way to pay that is acceptable to Singaporeans, these proposals are just elections promises.]
Mar 3, 2010
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He said: 'In my constituency, many low-wage workers are hostile to foreign workers because they think foreign workers depress their wages.'