TL;DR – Or would you rather we take to the streets?
In many parts of the world, people have come to expect protests to break out on Labour Day. Some of these protests could paralyse entire cities. Some of these protests turn violent. This year was no different.
Protests shut down central Jakarta
Indonesian workers converged on Central Jakarta in Wednesday’s massive May Day rally. Workers and labour unions marched to the State Palace and Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration in protest of the government’s planned fuel subsidy cuts and unfair labor practices. That halted public transportation and closed down major arteries.
The protestors were protesting to put an end to the controversial practice of contract labor called “outsourcing” in Indonesia. They also urged the government to raise minimum wages, provide free healthcare, and improve working conditions for workers in the country.
MayDay MayDay… Hari Buruh kok malah merusak Karangan Bunga di Balai Kota ? Ada yg kasih Instruksi ? pic.twitter.com/MAVtzjVoAM
— Toleransi (@LenteraAsa) May 1, 2017
More photos here.
Protests turn violent in Paris
Thousands of trade union activists marched through the French capital and in other cities to demand that France’s next president protect workers’ rights. But apparently those rights don’t include the rights of policemen, who are also workers (in some sense), to be safe from harm.
The protests turn violent leading to fierce clashes between protesters and police officers. Some protesters even started to lob fire bombs that exploded into flames in the street. The clashes left several riot officers injured.
Here’s the story behind the viral photograph above of a policeman on fire.
Just another peaceful day in Singapore
In contrast, what was Labour Day like in Singapore?
Did you notice any protests? Any disruptions to your day? Were you inconvenienced in any way on Labour Day because of some groups of people protesting in the streets? Probably not. In fact, there is a good chance that you took a short holiday to our neighbouring countries. Perhaps a weekend trip to JB, taking advantage of the favourable exchange rate?
But some would say that Singapore doesn’t have protests and riots because Singaporeans have no guts. Perhaps. Or perhaps things just aren’t that bad that we have to protest. In any case, can you imagine if protests like those in Jakarta or Paris breaks out in Singapore? What do you think would happen? Would that really bring better working conditions for our felloa Singaporeans?
Most likely not.
Instead, we would likely see a flight of investments from Singapore. We can probably forget about other companies wanting to build factories or set up regional headquarters in Singapore. How many jobs do you think would be lost as a result? How much would the median income drop as a result?
But there’s work to be done
That said, there are indeed many things that need to be done to improve the welfare of Singaporean workers.
Not just rank and file workers, but workers across the entire spectrum, including the PMETs. PMETs who work in MNCs, and also PMETs who work in SMEs since our local enterprises actually hire the bulk of our Singaporean workers. And of course, not forgetting aspiring self-made men and women who want to be freelancers and self-employed, or want to build their own startups.
And that’s why our Labour Movement also has a May Day Rally of its own.
That sense of solidarity between the labour movement, government and employers shown at Singapore’s May Day Rally is something that is very unusual. Will Singapore’s labour movement and government be able to deliver on those things that they plan to do? Will Singapore workers really benefit? Will Singapore workers get better jobs with higher pay as a result of the effort of the labour movement and the government?
We don’t know. We hope so.