SINGAPORE: The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has stated its position of fair and reasonable wages amid calls that workers doing the same job should be paid equally.
Recently, labour activists in Hong Kong called for the right to equal remuneration for migrant workers in Singapore.
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) said these are "fundamental rights" enshrined in international labour standards.
The protest was made after the SMRT bus driver from China staged an illegal strike.
Speaking to reporters, labour chief Lim Swee Say pointed out the idea of equal pay for the same job, will cause a lot of discrepancies, unhappiness and unfairness.
The labour movement called for a news conference to address various issues concerning migrant workers which surfaced after the SMRT bus drivers saga.
One of them is about wages.
The bus drivers from China were unhappy about being paid different wages compared to those of other nationalities.
Mr Lim said: "From the Singaporean workers point of view, we work in Singapore, we earn salary in Singapore, but at the same time their families also live in Singapore. So as a result they have to bear the cost of living in Singapore.
"Whereas for foreign workers, a bulk of their income is actually sent back to their home countries to support their families and of course, the cost of living in their home countries is very different from that in Singapore."
"Therefore, the labour movement, the unions have expressed a lot of concern. We are highly uncomfortable with this idea of same job, equal pay, because we feel that this will disadvantage our local workers and their families."
Instead, Mr Lim said that fair and reasonable wages is the way to go, and went on to explain the wage disparity.
Mr Lim said: "Firstly, foreign workers working in Singapore, some are on longer—term employment, some are on short—term contract. Malaysian workers, for example, are a traditional source of supply.
"Many of the Malaysian workers when they work in Singapore, even for those on work permit scheme. In fact many of them do renew their work permit time after time, and over time, settle down to become PRs in Singapore.
"Therefore, over the years, they are able to accumulate their expertise, their experience and thereby able to add more value to the businesses, and therefore, they are treated differently from the non—traditional sources."
Mr Lim added that among the workers from non—traditional sources, the market recognises workers from different countries also have different strengths and weaknesses.
Competition for foreign workers exist not only in Singapore across companies also between Singapore and other regional countries.
Foreign workers have a choice of whether to work in Singapore or elsewhere.
Mr Lim also stressed that the way to manage Singapore’s dependency on foreign labour is for companies to make better use of these workers.
He urged companies to increase their productivity.
The labour movement will be increasing its outreach to foreign workers —— the Migrants Workers’ Centre is opening up a new recreation centre at Penjuru Road on Sunday. The Centre will also set up a second office next year to increase accessibility to foreign workers.
Migrants Workers’ Centre’s president Yeo Guat Kwang said: "At the moment, we only have one at Little India and we are going to build another one, which is likely to be completed in the first half of next year. We are going to co—locate this new centre with our tripartite partners.
"It could be in the union’s premises or with the Ministry of Manpower to make it more accessible and easier for all our foreign workers to seek redress if they have problems."
NTUC is working with the Manpower Ministry to produce a video to help educate workers before they leave for Singapore, on their legislative rights in the country and how to settle disputes amicably.
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