So far in this election season we’ve already seen sexism and xenophobia rear their ugly heads. But tonight’s rally by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) at Bukit Panjang delivered a new turd: the use of exploitative labour policies for political point-scoring.
Speaking at the rally, incumbent Member of Parliament Liang Eng Hwa criticised the proposals of his opponents from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). In particular, he criticised the SDP’s promise of a minimum wage for all, including foreign workers.
Imposing a minimum wage for migrant workers such as foreign domestic workers (FDWs, often also known in Singapore as “maids”) would diminish the disposable income of Singaporean families, Liang said.
“Do you want that?” he asked.
“No!” came the reply.
It’s common for political rivals to criticise each other’s election promises, but it’s both astonishing and disgusting that Liang would stoop as low as this for political gain.
FDWs are massively underpaid for the work that they do, and receive little protection under the law. They aren’t even included in Singapore’s Employment Act – legislators in 1968 said that the labour they perform is “not amenable to regulations by ordinary labour legislation” – which means there is no legal cap on their working hours, no right to appeal against unfair dismissal, and no maternity leave (in fact, an FDW who falls pregnant faces repatriation unless she gets an abortion).
It’s thus morally abhorrent for Liang to not only oppose the implementation of a minimum wage for FDWs, but to use it to score political points at an election rally.
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Article first appeared on The Online Citizen