SINGAPORE: This year’s May Day Statement from The Workers’ Party focuses on the current challenges Singapore and Singaporeans are facing—including increased global tensions, high costs of living and doing business, the need to protect workers—at a time when the prime ministership is about to be handed over.

In his message, Mr Pritam Singh, WP Secretary-General and Leader of the Opposition, wished all Singaporean workers a Happy Labour Day, and wrote “Singapore enters a new chapter ahead, there is hope things may be done differently.”

He also affirmed the party’s commitment to serve Singaporeans.

“One thing is clear: Come what may, the Workers’ Party will continue to reflect the concerns of workers and SMEs, raise issues of sustainable growth and advocate for labour policy legislation for the benefit of all Singaporeans.”

Mr Singh noted the situation in the Middle East and the rivalry between China and the United States as external concerns and continued inflation as an internal one that incoming Prime Minister Lawrence Wong will need to address as a top priority, quoting economists in a recent Bloomberg poll.

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A sizable percentage of Singaporeans, 2 in 5, are also concerned about losing their jobs amid news of firms’ retrenchments, closures, and relocation to other countries in Southeast Asia.

Mr Singh pointed out that if large companies and multinational corporations (MNCs) are struggling to flourish because of the cost of doing business in Singapore, how much more for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

He also mentioned micro-businesses in the food and beverage industry “such as hawkers that have closed down, adding to other recent high-profile closures in what restaurateurs widely declare is shaping up to be a ‘tough 2024’.”

High-interest rates and the GST increase to 9 per cent at the beginning of the year have added to businesses’ pressures.

The WP has asked the government for more support for SMEs in terms of subsidies for non-wage areas, including rental support, talent and acquisition schemes, international expansion, and others.

“By helping SMEs with the non-wage costs of doing business, we hope they may continue to drive entrepreneurship and innovation, operate and employ over 70 per cent of the total labour force, and pay competitive wages for our workers,” he wrote.

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The party has endeavoured to safeguard workers’ interests by advocating for better protection, primarily through a Redundancy Insurance Scheme, which the WP has called for a number of years now.

In addition, it has asked for the government for more effective re-skilling and skills transfer from foreign professionals to Singaporeans.

Mr Singh also summarized what the party has called for in 14 speeches during the recent Committee of Supply debate on the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) budget, the highest number the WP devoted to any Ministry.

These include mandating retrenchment benefits for workmen and employees, asking the MOM to work with the Education Ministry and other agencies concerning reskilling and employment, and reasonable accommodations for Persons with Disabilities to be included in the upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation. /TISG

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