While the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) led Government has always denounced the need for a minimum wage in Singapore, it has been concerning to read about how a local Grab rider was only paid a miserly S$8 for a total of 7 trips which included a grocery order of S$495. This seems like excessive labour intensive work for very little money. It also doesn’t seem very fair. But, this is what employers can get away with if there is no minimum wage law.
Is the PAP prepared to depart from its old narrative and re look this inequitable practice?
Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh of the Workers’ Party (WP) has said that a universal minimum wage extends beyond a “moral imperative” — it is also a yardstick for “national solidarity” and how Singapore treats its most vulnerable workers.
Looking at the Grab example cited above, it is hard to disagree with Singh.
Another example of seemingly unfair employment practices is when an elderly petrol pump attendant was made to pay for someone else’s dishonesty. Given that everyone makes mistakes and that this man makes such a low wage to begin with, docking his salary of S$133.80 seems almost inhumane! He was reported as having to eat biscuits for dinner!
These instances are just a stone in an ocean of other seemingly inequitable employment practices in our island nation. What they do show however is that our current employment landscape, especially for the lowly paid blue collar workers needs urgent revamping. It is not right for society to bully the most vulnerable and the fact that such practices are allowed to happen is bullying in itself.
While a minimum wage will not redress all the ills in society, it at least provides some protection from exploitation. The fact that the PAP will not acknowledge this is disturbing.
As Singh said, the Government’s current ‘Minimum Wage Plus’ sectoral approach only covers productivity and career progression within specific sectors. It has also taken “too long” to implement. A minimum wage will alleviate unfairness more evenly across sectors far more quickly.
As posited by Singh: “‘it has been eight years, with three sectors covered. This is far too long for Singaporeans who work outside these sectors. How long are they to wait?”
Given that (and according to a BT article) many business leaders have already indicated that they would support a reasonably considered national minimum wage, why is the PAP so hesitant?