Labour movement held poll on training, taxes earlier

The labour movement has confirmed it held a poll last year to gather feedback from union leaders on issues such as training and taxes, ahead of Budget 2018.

But the results of the poll were not presented to the Government, said its Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute yesterday in response to queries from The Straits Times.

It added that the feedback, with input compiled from focus group discussions and dialogues, was used to inform the National Trades Union Congress' workplan for this year and its labour MPs' positions.

On Sunday,a selection of tax-related questions from the poll was posted on sociopolitical website The Online Citizen.

The institute said the poll, held last November and December, got about 440 responses. Questions were based on issues that affect working people, including their immediate concerns and areas the Government should spend on.

Taxes were "a much talked-about issue" after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of the need for a tax hike at the PAP convention on Nov 19, it said.

The institute's director, Mr Steve Tan, said it has been conducting an average of 10 feedback exercises each year since 2015, when he took the helm.

"As the voice for working people, the labour movement needs to be on top of their concerns. As such, we regularly gather feedback, formally and informally," he said. "Naturally, this would include the national Budget."

The goods and services tax will go up from 7 per cent to 9 per cent some time between 2021 and 2025.

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim had voiced her suspicion in Parliament on March 1 that the Government had intended to raise GST immediately, but it backtracked after people said a hike would contradict previous statements by government leaders.

Four office-holders, in rebutting her, set out the comments of government leadersfrom as far back as 2013, to show the Government had been consistent in saying it had enough to fund expenditure for the current term until 2020.

Last Thursday, Ms Lim said she accepted her suspicion "may have been wrong", but did not withdraw her statement or apologise.

Questions in the NTUC poll included when taxes should be raised, and whether GST should go up. Nearly three-quarters of those who responded did not support a GST hike, and some suggested taxing the rich instead.

On when taxes should be raised, 38 per cent - the largest group-chose the option "Between 2021 and 2025". Besides "Never" and "Other", options started from "Between 2018 and 2020" and ran in five-year brackets until 2050.

The institute did not say what it did with the feedback on taxes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Labour movement held poll on training, taxes earlier'. Print Edition | Subscribe