Recounting his conversation with Bukit Batok residents during his regular walkabouts in the ward, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan has revealed that the “angst over foreign workers and how they suppress wages and displace local workers” continue to be at the forefront of residents’ minds.

Sharing photos from one of his most recent outreaches in Bukit Batok on Sunday (1 Dec), Dr Chee said: “The angst over foreign workers and how they suppress wages and displace local workers continue to be at the forefront of your minds.

“I made it clear that while we want to see foreigners coming in with their talent to help our economy, the way the PAP is going about it is wrong.”

In 2016, Dr Chee contested the by-election in Bukit Batok SMC that was left vacant after People’s Action Party (PAP) MP David Ong resigned due to an extra-marital affair with a grassroots member. The PAP fielded Murali Pillai as their candidate in the ward.

Mr Pillai, who lost the 2015 General Election when he went against the Workers’ Party team at Aljunied GRC, won the Bukit Batok by-election with over 60 per cent of the vote.

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Since the election, Dr Chee has been walking the ground at Bukit Batok SMC and has indicated his intention to contest the ward in the next general election.

Asserting that the current labour system “continues to replace, not complement, the S’porean workforce” and that the very fabric of the nation will be irrevocably destroyed if Singapore continues down this path, Dr Chee proposed a Singaporeans First policy that will better protect local workers from foreign competition.

The SDP’s Singaporeans First policy was first introduced in June this year, when the party launched its alternative population and immigration policy, Building A People: Sound Policies For A Secure Future.

One of the SDP’s ideas is to introduce a points-based system called the Talent Track Scheme that foreign PMETS wishing to work in Singapore can apply to. Applicants will be assessed and given a set of points based on their qualifications, skills, and experience. Only those who receive the required number of points will qualify to be employed in Singapore.

Employers can then employ these approved foreign workers but can only do so after demonstrating that no Singaporean is available or qualifies for the position. The SDP said that this will prevent firms from hiring foreigners solely because they are able to work for lower wages and ensures that Singaporeans do not suffer from unfair competition with foreigners.

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The party proposed: “A nation should always ensure that the well-being of its citizens is prioritised. We therefore propose the implementation of a TalentTrack Scheme to ensure that only foreign professionals whose skills and credentials are rigorously verified may work in Singapore.

“Businesses seeking to hire foreign professionals will be required to demonstrate that the competencies they seek are not available within the Singaporean candidate pool. Fair employment laws will also be passed to protect the interests of workers. This policy should significantly reduce the number of foreign workers in our midst while maintaining a high quality workforce.”

A day before Dr Chee shared residents’ concerns about being displaced from their jobs, the SDP asserted that Singaporeans deserve more protection in the labour market.

Revealing that the party does not think it is a coincidence that the unemployment rate for local Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs) has increased as the number of foreign PMETs has also increased, the opposition party said in a Facebook post published on Saturday (30 Nov):
“As Singaporeans, many of us have either been displaced or know someone who has been displaced from their PMET jobs by foreign employees.
“PAP tells us that this is all for the sake of “greater economic prosperity”. But who actually gains from this economic prosperity? Certainly not everyday Singaporeans. But do we not deserve the protection of the PAP government?
“The SDP believes that Singaporeans are more than capable for these PMET jobs. When graduates from our reputable universities are displaced, it’s not an issue of workforce quality anymore. We should not invest into our education system, only to prefer foreign talent over home-grown Singaporean talent.”

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