At one point in the debate in Parliament on Oct 15 concerning the issue, Mr Chia asked the Workers’ Party Members of Parliament, who are advocating for a minimum wage of S$1,300 for Singapore’s lowest-paid full-time workers, if they realized the possibility that lower-wage earners could lose employment as businesses adapt more and there are more technological advances such as automation.
Mr Pritam Singh, the WP head and Leader of the Opposition, answered that the WP MPs had not brought up the issue of automation at all, and then asked Mr Chia in turn if he is willing to pay S$1,300 monthly to the 32,000 lower wage earners in Singapore.
Mr Chia, who owns food-and-beverage chain Timbre, essentially replied in the negative, saying that a business owner is answerable to the whole company and not to a particular type of employee and that a business should be profitable and scalable.
His answer earned online criticism from Singapore Democratic Party’s Min Cheong, who ran against Mr Chia at Holland Bukit Timah GRC in July’s General Election. Ms Min wrote a Facebook post lambasting the PAP MP. She wrote, “you do realise you can still be profitable and scale while paying your employees at least $1300/month. And if you can’t, your business model is likely a pretty shi*** one in the first place.”
Food guru and Makansutra founder Kf Seetoh also called the PAP MP out, writing in a Facebook post, “wrote: “It’s cruel to pay a Singaporean $1,300 a mth in this most expensive city in the world era and expect them to be proud of it. Even my part timers earn more.
If you cannot afford to pay $1,300 minimum flat out wage, please, I implore you, Don’t Be An Entrepreneur”.
But Mr Chia also took to Facebook to air his side of the argument, stating that “As a business owner, I would like to share that we all want to provide sustainable wages to our staff.”
While he did not mention the issue of minimum wage per se, he added that “Any wage increase needs to be coupled with new skills, job redesign and transition capabilities such that both the company and the worker can immediately see value creation.”
He reiterated the point he made in Parliament, when he said that more companies will increase technology adoption, making it necessary for workers to gain new skills “so that their contribution is recognised through better wages over time.”
As a business owner, I would like share that we all want to provide sustainable wages to our staff. Productivity is key to providing our staff a good wage and it’ll lead to a win (sustained wage increases for staff) win (viability and growth to provide more jobs by businesses) and win (for consumers as products and services are kept affordable). Any wage increase needs to be coupled with new skills, job redesign and transition capabilities such that both the company and the worker can immediately see value creation. This win-win- win model is central towards enabling competitiveness and ensure that Singapore never addresses any problem in isolation. Technology adoption will increase among companies and therefore businesses need their workers to embrace new skills so that their contribution is recognised through better wages over time. Wage increases without corresponding better skills puts our worker at a higher risk. Firstly businesses will not be able to justify such unilateral cost increases and this puts the job itself at risk. Secondly encouraging companies to pass this cost increases on to the consumer without any value added is a slippery slope towards lower competitiveness. Both of these consequences are very real and these factors need to be deeply considered when recommending policies to uplift our low wage workers. (Video credit: CNA)
Posted by Edward Chia Bing Hui 谢秉辉 on Saturday, October 17, 2020
The PAP MP added, “Wage increases without corresponding better skills puts our worker at a higher risk,” as it would burden businesses and put jobs at risk, increase costs for consumers without adding value, which he called “a slippery slope towards lower competitiveness.”
“Both of these consequences are very real and these factors need to be deeply considered when recommending policies to uplift our low wage workers,” he added. —/TISG