Forum: Disagreement doesn't diminish unionists' work

People at Raffles Place MRT on Sept 8, 2020.
People at Raffles Place MRT on Sept 8, 2020.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Recently, during the debate in Parliament about the minimum wage, I made the argument that we should not rely on "folksy wisdom" as the basis for policy.

To be clear, my statement was about the beliefs held by some union leaders about the minimum wage, as cited by National Trades Union Congress deputy secretary-general Koh Poh Koon.

While there is a role for opinion based on personal experience, I maintain that good policy should be formulated on the basis of data-driven empirical evidence.

It is important not to conflate the two - that is, using an opinion to refute a study.

Our Government routinely uses academic studies to design public policy. This instance should be no different.

Notwithstanding the fact that most of our unions have had, for decades, symbiotic ties to the People's Action Party, there are many areas where I respect the views of union leaders, such as their empathetic representation of workers under their charge, their ability to negotiate with business owners, and their hard work in support of workers' rights.

My disagreement in this instance in no way diminishes my regard for unionists in all these other ways, nor does it take away from my appreciation of their work in the past.

The Workers' Party believes that a universal minimum wage, set at $1,300 of take-home pay for full-time work, can address the difficulties of the lowest-income earners, while the progressive wage model is being expanded to more sectors.

Jamus Jerome Lim

MP for Sengkang GRC (Anchorvale)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2020, with the headline 'Disagreement doesn't diminish unionists' work'. Subscribe