The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has claimed that the ruling party has once again appropriated its policy idea, in response to the Returner Work Trail scheme that was recently unveiled by NTUC to provide financial assistance for retrenched professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).
They had previously claimed that the People’s Action Party had adopted their idea to raise taxes for the top 5% of income-earners. The idea which was conceptualised by the SDP in 2010 was criticised by PAP politician Dr Vivian Balakrishnan in 2011 before it was re-introduced as part of the nation’s budget in 2015.
In response to Dr Balakrishnan’s criticism that the SDP’s policies would bankrupt Singapore, SDP chief Dr Chee Soon Juan had said that the PAP has a habit of adopting SDP’s policies after criticising them.
He indicated that these policies include the minimum wage model, pooling of healthcare risks, priority for Singaporeans when it comes to employment and government schemes like the Fair Consideration Framework that he said was an appropriation of the SDP’s proposal that employers must try to hire Singaporeans first, before considering foreigner job applicants.
Dr Chee had said then: “The PAP has a knee-jerk reaction that anything the SDP proposes cannot be good.”
We republish the SDP’s statement on the Returner Work Trail programme in full here:
The latest scheme adopted by the NTUC to provide professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) who are retrenched with financial assistance is a modified version of the SDP’s proposal launched 2010.
The PAP’s idea, called Returner Work Trial, will assist employers to offer job training for the individuals who have been unemployed for at least two years. The trainee, who must be 30 and above, will receive
$1,500 per month from Workforce Singapore
$1,000 per month from the potential employer
a $2,500 allowance
The payout period for trainees is limited to six months.
Compare this to the SDP’s RESTART (Re-Employment Scheme and Temporary Assistance for the ReTrenched) programme where retrenched workers will receive:
75% of last drawn salary (capped at median wage) for first six months
50% for the second six months if still unemployed
25% for the third six months if still unemployed
The payout period is capped at 18 months and MOM will help match retrenched individuals with jobs. The job-seekers can only reject up to three job offers.
The NTUC’s idea is essentially an unemployment benefits scheme similar to RESTART but with the difference that under the Returner Worker Trial programme, a retrenched worker has to undergo training in order to get the financial support. There are many problems with the measure:
One, it is restricted only to PMETs. There are many retrenched workers who are not PMETs. They also face the same hardships when laid-off.
Two, the payout-training period lasts for only six months after which the employer has no obligation to offer the trainee a permanent job. This is especially salient as Singapore’s economy contracts with job vacancies continuing to fall.
Three, how are retrenched workers expected to survive if they have to remain unemployed for two years before they qualify for the scheme? A study found that 50 percent of households have little or no savings due to the high cost of living to tide them through difficult times.
In addition, why is the government using taxpayers’ money to subsidise businesses? Companies can use the scheme as a cheap source of labour. Also, will this not encourage companies to lay off workers and then profit by “training” others under the scheme at a state-subsidised rate?
Given such loopholes, Temasek Holdings needs to state how many of its Government-linked companies are participating in the scheme and the government needs to tell the public how much these GLCs will stand to benefit from it.
In the past, the PAP has also followed the SDP’s lead on minimum wage, universal healthcare, and employing Singaporeans first.