Bogus Labour Union Raises Fees / Does Spore have a Bona Fide Labour Union?
- 22 September 2005 1722 hrs
Union membership fee to be raised from January
By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia
SINGAPORE : Paying one more dollar to get much more in return -- that
is how the National Trades Union Congress explains the union
membership fee increase from January.
Unionists will have to pay an extra $13 dollars annually for
At the same time, the labour movement says its key focus remains
helping lower wage workers.
It has unveiled the first of such measures -- a new S$1.15
million "Back-to-School" programme for the children of needy members.
If you are a union member, you would have received a personal letter
from the leaders of the labour movement explaining why they took what
they called the "difficult decision" to increase union membership
fees from S$8 to S$9 a month, after deferring it for four years.
Explaining the decision to union leaders at the NTUC pre-ordinary
delegates conference, labour chief Lim Boon Heng said the hike had
been resisted earlier due to the Iraq war and the SARS crisis.
The membership fee is based on the median wage of the workers and
that has increased to S$1,800 monthly.
So NTUC says the increase in membership fee is inevitable.
Said Lim Swee Say, NTUC Deputy Secretary-General, "Membership fees
account for 19 percent of our operating costs; so in other words, 81
percent of our costs would depend on our cooperatives and our social
partners. I think if we were to continue this trend and become overly
dependent on our social partners, the danger is that we will do less
for the workers or become less effective as an independent voice."
And lower income workers will actually benefit from the membership
Mr Lim said, "Yes, they will be paying one dollar more but in terms
of benefits both tangible and intangible, they are going to get even
Union leaders echoed the same sentiments.
Said union leader G Muthukumarasamy, "We said the money is coming
back to you to save and help lower income groups."
This includes the "Back-to-School" initiative for more than 10,000
children of some 5,000 needy unionists.
They will get vouchers worth $100 for each school-going child to help
them buy school uniforms, books and shoes for the new school year.
Applications for the "Back-to-School" vouchers will open from
Union members with a monthly household income not exceeding S$1,500
or a per capita household income not exceeding S$450 (if their
monthly household income exceeds S$1,500) can apply for assistance.
The programme will start in December. - CNA /ct
26 July 2003
As I read Mr Tan Tarn How's article this morning in the 26 July 2003 issue of
the Straits Times (attached at bottom), several thoughts flashed through my
Until recently, the need for a strong labour union has been taken very much for
granted. But with growing retrenchments and unsympathetic policy makers, the
need for a bona fide union who will stand shoulder to shoulder with the worker
is absolutely necessary.
In Singapore, the lack of bona fide union representation is all the more
glaring given that this is not a welfare state and the state does not provide
any relief for the unemployed. The government's clear message to the retrenched
worker is not to look for free "hand-outs" (quoting the words of Straits Times
writer Ms Chua Lee Hoong).
Does asking for a descent job qualify as a "hand-out". I think that the average
Singaporean only wishes to be given the opportunity to earn his keep, and it is
not his fault that he has fallen victim to an imperfect system. (Pls see
previous article "Job Market Imperfections? Live With It!!! in previous issue
of Singapore Review, attached below)
And adding insult to injury, not only do policy makers remain unsympathetic to
displaced workers, unemployed workers are also denied of their hard
earned CPF salaries. If this is not the time to dip into hard earned savings,
It is understandable that many workers are bitter and feel that Unions here are
government affiliated and will only make a 1/2 hearted attempt to fight for
workers rights. Most often the measures are limited to retraining and job
sourcing unlike real Labour Unions in France and South Korea who have little
fear in going toe to toe with ministers and government on serious bread and
butter issues concerning employment and wage reforms.
But what do you expect when the unions in Singapore are largely runned and
managed directly or indirectly by officials who retain strong ties with the
government (and ultimately employers).
In Singapore, so called "Labour Unions" like NTUC are seen as tools for the
government to implement unpopular wage reforms. The relationship is a symbiotic
one and therein lies the problem. There will come a time when the needs of the
workers are at odds with government wage reforms and this is precisely the time
when real labour unions come into play.
It is no strange coincidence that the NTUC chief has always been a PAP member
and a member of cabinet. The dilemma that poses then is what happens if there
is a conflict of interest between workers and cabinet/policy makers?
Unfortunately, public consensus here confirm that when push comes to shove,
these pro-government unions will not be there in the darkest hour of need.
In short the pathetic state of labour union representation in Singapore is much
like that of opposition politics. Whatever protests and representations allowed
via official channels are merely cosmetic in nature, more so to show case to
the world that individual rights are represented in form and on paper. When the
question is asked, the government can proudly respond and answer, "Yes, we have
a labour union in existence here to represent workers rights and workers do
have a channel to make themselves heard."
And it is conceded that this is the truth on paper at least.
But peering beyond the veil, the real scene that greets the eyes is far from
encouraging. It is an ominous reminder that here in totalitarian Singapore, the
Government controls everything, and we mean everything literally.
In these difficult times, where there is a growing divide between the interests
of workers and the interests of the Ruling Elite. The absence of real, tangible
dissent in opposition politics and labour representation is both conspicuous
Events in recent weeks have emphasized the growing discord between the
interest of the masses and those of the Ruling Elite. Singapore Review has been
flooded by passionate letters endorsing release of CPF funds during these
difficult times. Other issues which have attracted passionate response concern
the NEL Fiasco (and repeated calls to open Baugkok station) as well as looming
unanswered questions concerning ministerial salaries.
Cruel Irony Defined: A PAP Minister who takes home SGD100,000-SGD175,000 PER
MONTH in tax dollars telling a worker (who earns SGD2,000 a month) to be "less
choosy" and to work harder.
And unfortunately for the average Singaporean, the above scenario has been
replayed over and over again like some defective recorder. After awhile, even a
once intelligent mind becomes numb and accepts fiction over fact and form over
This ridiculous situation exists only in Singapore as there is no real barrier
(whether in the form of real Labour Union representation, or Opposition
Representation) standing between PAP ministers and average individuals.
Is this a political system that is FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE AND OF THE PEOPLE? One really wonders.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CONSTITUTION?
The merits of a One Party, One Government, and totalitarian dictatorship have
long been questioned. The word of Kennedy strike home "POWER CORRUPTS AND
ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY". The spirit of these words govern the
Doctrine of Separation of Powers in a written constitution. One wonders in
Singapore whether the constitution exists only in form and not in substance. As
is often the case in Singapore, the spirit and original objective is often lost
in a model system that looks good only on paper.
Singapore expels union activist
1 May 2004
By Andrew Wood
Pilot Ryan Goh says he will now live in Australia
Singapore has expelled a union activist who angered the country's
influential senior statesman, Lee Kuan Yew.
Captain Ryan Goh, a Malaysian, led a campaign at Singapore Airlines
to oust union leaders who accepted pay cuts and redundancies last
The authorities told Mr Goh that he was an undesirable immigrant in
As he departed from Changi airport, Mr Goh said he hoped to remain a
pilot - but restrictions on visiting Singapore might cause problems.
"Singapore Changi Airport is an international hub so most of the
airlines will fly into Singapore," he told reporters.
"And if I do get a job with the international airlines, naturally I
will fly into Singapore. And with the prohibition on me it will be
difficult to get a job as a crew."
Mr Goh says he will live in Australia. The authorities have allowed
one of his four children to remain in Singapore to finish school.
Strikes and labour protests are rare in Singapore.
In February, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's senior minister, intervened in
the dispute at Singapore Airlines.
He singled out Mr Goh as the instigator of a revolt by union members,
who had voted out union leaders after they accepted pay cuts at the
The authorities then ordered Mr Goh and his family to leave.