Forum: Jamus Lim's remarks belittle work of unionists

Workers’ Party’s Jamus Lim at Parliament House on Aug 24, 2020.
Workers’ Party’s Jamus Lim at Parliament House on Aug 24, 2020.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union (Batu) has always fought for the rights of our essential services workers in the environmental services industry.

In my former roles with it, I represented the union in the tripartite cluster for cleaners and also the tripartite cluster for landscape which made the recommendations for the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) in the two industries.

It is regretful that the Workers' Party's Jamus Lim made comments in Parliament on Thursday not just belittling our hard work all these years, but also seemingly putting down the intricate issues involved in outsourced industries such as cleaning, landscape and lift maintenance.

Folksy, as we understand the term, refers to a simple manner of one being friendly and, perhaps, informal in behaviour. In other circumstances, unionists like us may not take offence at the term.

However, in the context of the parliamentary debate, when Associate Professor Lim alluded to "folksy" union leaders who think that the Sun revolves around the Earth, it belittles the years of hard work put in by unionists.

When working at the PWM for the cleaning and landscape industries, Batu engaged many workers to get feedback, and went beyond just facts and figures from the stakeholders in the tripartite committees.

Between 2013 and 2018, real median monthly gross wages of full-time cleaners and landscape workers grew cumulatively by around 30 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.

Batu continued to lobby for improvements to the existing mandatory PWM sectors and, at the same time, pushed for expansion to other sectors as well.

There is no doubt all unionists care deeply for our workers. We wish for them to achieve more in their jobs, giving them the dignity of earning a decent living and the pride of career progression.

The PWM allows for that. Since the PWM was implemented, it has been easier to encourage workers to upskill themselves. We are confident this will bode well for them in the near future, even as the economy reshapes during this crisis.

Nasordin B. Mohd Hashim

Former president

Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2020, with the headline 'Jamus Lim's remarks belittle work of unionists'. Print Edition | Subscribe