BY SUE-ANN CHIA
THE Workers’ Party (WP) and the labour movement engaged in a battle of words over the issue of foreign workers yesterday.
The exchange had been sparked by labour MP Seng Han Thong’s criticism on Thursday of the opposition party’s May Day message.
It had questioned if Singaporeans “truly benefited” from the job boom, as six in 10 new jobs had gone to foreigners.
Mr Seng, assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said Singapore has to take a pragmatic approach to the issue.
He also challenged the WP to match its words with deeds, by ensuring the town council it runs in Hougang does not hire any foreigners.
Yesterday, the WP responded and said all the staff members in the town council are Singaporean.
However, it was quick to add that it recognises the contribution of foreign workers and is not against their employment.
For instance, Hougang Town Council does not object to its contractors deploying foreign workers in the estate, the WP said in a statement signed by its organising secretary Yaw Shin Leong.
It also reiterated its views on foreigners.
“The issue here is not of foreign workers’ employment per se but rather how the Singapore Government and the labour movement will ensure that the dignity and societal position of Singaporean workers are not compromised,” it said.
The Government’s attitude, it added, should be to put Singaporeans first and “resist any erosion of Singaporeans’ societal standing”.
“It is the Government’s responsibility to show compassion for the plight of workers facing the pressure of high inflation,” the WP said.
Later, Mr Seng retorted: “The Workers’ Party has shifted its position on the issue on foreigners. The WP had implied earlier that foreigners are breaking the rice bowls of Singaporean workers.
“If WP truly believes in helping Singaporeans, then it should offer all of its work to Singaporeans and not allow its contractors to employ foreigners.”
He also said that, as far as NTUC is concerned, “the societal position of Singaporeans has never been in question”.
“Nonetheless, we believe all workers should be treated with dignity. Hence, we believe in taking an inclusive approach that would make Singapore an inclusive society.”