The Labour Movement should not let Lim Swee Say it himself. Not since the 1990s, when Goh Chok Tong spouted all manner of football analogies, has anyone generated so much interest over his own slogans and turns of phrases.
It’s been three and a half years since the NTUC’s Secretary-General first exhorted the country’s workers to be part of a Cheaper, Better, Faster (CBF*) economy, and I haven’t stopped hearing people talking about how the blardy gahmen wants to make them cheaper better and faster. It’s been detracting people from the real issues the NTUC and the MOM have been trying to tackle, and quite unfortunately a lot of people think this is how the NTUC has made its mark this last decade.
Actually, any slogan that starts with or has the word “cheap” or “cheaper” in it is asking for trouble: Courtesy is for Cheap. Cheap Better Best. Cheaper is Enough. You get the picture. It makes you want to go to Sim Lim Square and haggle with a salesman over an iPhone 5 knock-off.
Then a fortnight ago Mr Lim was quoted in the papers as saying that the country needed not only to “bite the bullet, not one, but three bullets”. I took it to mean the Cheaper Bullet, Better Bullet and Faster Bullet because I couldn’t find anything else in the article that explained what those bullets were and why they needed biting.
I was invited last month to a social media/bloggers’ dinner (catered by Smiling Orchid, no less) and briefing at NTUC Centre on One Marina Boulevard and learned about the (silver, supposedly) bullet that the NTUC didn’t want anyone to bite – A National Minimum Wage.
As we all know now, the purported rejection of Minimum Wage by the NTUC — announced by, of all people to announce it, the Sec-Gen himself, instigated a tirade against The NTUC, Dis Gahmen and That Minister, which hasn’t shown signs of abating. The tirade generally goes along the lines of:
“WTF is this Progressive Wage Model? Dowan to pay people more just say so lah!”
I don’t know whether it’s because you can’t get the full picture on ST or if the glossy infographics on NTUC’s own online media just makes your eyes glaze over, but if you had looked hard at what Mr Lim Swee Say was saying, you’d realise that nobody is rejecting the Minimum Wage.
I support the view that if you were to introduce a mandatory minimum wage in any industry, at a level high enough to make any meaningful difference to real wages, you WILL see unemployment, and the lower income group will be the first to suffer as unemployment becomes institutionalized, as has been the case in every country with a national minimum wage.
The good thing for us is that NTUC has been working on a solution to what they see as a great social cost of economic growth. It’s a calibrated and adjustable solution, where wage increases are pegged to “job/skill productivity enhancements” which have been made easier through funding from other labour institutions.
If I could tell Lim Swee Say what to say to the public so that the NTUC gets a better rap, I’d tell him to call what he’s scribbled on the paper sheets the Minimum Wage Plus instead of Progressive Wage Model because it’d have sounded less like the PWM was a substitute for Minimum Wage.
I’d also ask him to tell the public that he really goes to the MOM to Kow Peh Kow Bu about protecting workers, and that under his watch, the NTUC has actually forced the MOM to make changes to the Employment Act.
I’d ask him to tell the press what he said to EDB when they asked him, “where am I going to get the money to fund your workers’ upgrading courses”?
I would ask him to go on record as having said, “Not my problem. You go and find the money or else you won’t have an economy to develop”. (ok I paraphrase a little but I think he said something to that effect).
I’d tell him to summon the blardy SPH’s and Mediacorp’s news outlets and tell them to print a statement that he wanted the economy that was CHEAPER THAN SILICON VALLEY, BETTER THAN CHINA and FASTER THAN KOREA BECAUSE IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE A COMPETITIVE, HIGHLY SKILLED, ADAPTABLE AND INTELLIGENT WORK FORCE.
But what to do? People like to shoot them (with the bullets they’ve been asked to bite) whatever they do.
*It is very unfortunate that the nation’s labour movement has kept an unintentional tradition of using dubious acronyms: CBF is what the NTUC which was formerly known as SFTU coined. (And they banned FCUK because it was suggestive, wah lao eh).
Say you were on the train and some moron started taking pictures of you with his camera/phone. He might be a STOMP content producer so you check yourself to see what it is about you that might be worthy of a salacious headline in that venerable broadsheet.
There’s nothing worth talking about, unless the photographer is thinking what a slob you are for wearing your yoga workout clothes home on the train/bus.
Then you think, hey OMG, he’s taking a picture of me because he’s pervy like that and OMG, he’s gonna go home and do unimaginable things to himself while looking at that photo he’s just taken. You feel friggin’ how you say it, violated.
The photographer is now scrolling through his phone nonchalantly, and you vacillate between wanting to confront him and listening to your parents’ voice in your head saying, “Girl, don’t get involved, because these people don’t care one, will anyhow whack you”.
Then you realise, WTF, I am involved what. My photo is in his damned camera/phone! He has taken a piece of my soul/being with him and is going to wank to it!
So you steel yourself to confronting him when he alights, conveniently near your home (OMG, the perv lives nearby!) and you ask him sternly, “did you take a photo of me?”
He’s taken aback, but not about to back down meekly. He says, “No”.
You say, “Don’t lie, you didn’t even put your phone to silent! It went “chikchak”!”
He still denies it and you yell at him to show you his phone to prove his innocence.
Sure enough, your photo is not there. But. There are dozens of pictures of unsuspecting (or suspecting, seeing as the phone was not on silent) young women on various modes of public transport.
Incensed and emboldened now that you’ve gotten this far, you yell at him for being a pervert, and that he shouldn’t be taking pictures of people without asking for permission.
And then, and then, and then, he says “I’m not a pervert. This is my HOBBY!”
It is his HOBBY! He takes nice pictures of women he says! He thinks he is Russel Friggin’ Wong!
He even says he’s deleted your photo because it’s blur. Thank god for the jerky bus driver. You keep yelling at him, telling him it’s wrong to take people’s photos without permission and he THREATENS TO PUNCH YOU!
Downcast, you go home to your parents telling you “I told you to be careful”, and you make a police report knowing full well they’ll tell you the perv is not a perp because he “wasn’t filming porn” and you’re too tired to think about why there would be porn on the bus for him to film.
The officer at the cop shop taking your statement tries to reassure you by saying “lucky he delete your photo. Or else you know what he’ll be doing at home”. You feel sick to the core.
You’re angry and you want to tell the whole world about the perv. You did have the presence of mind on the bus earlier for a little quid pro quo to take an unflattering photo of the perv.
But let me tell you something. If enough of you stand up to pervs and morons like these, there’ll be fewer of them. So if someone takes your photo without your permission, confront them. They may not take down the photo, but at least you’ve put it in their heads that it’s not the right thing to do.
There’s a difference between a street photographer and a pervert/STOMP content producer. Stand up for yourselves. They’ll back down.
We love our new home. And after four months, we still love that it takes 30 minutes to walk up from Dunearn Road (although there’s a shuttle service) and we love the lush greenery all round.
We didn’t mind that there was a colony of long-tailed macaques roaming the edge of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve that would appear at different parts of the wooded area around our apartment block. They generally don’t bother anyone except when they tip unsecured rubbish bins over to scrounge for food.
There is however that one lone ranger macaque I mentioned previously who is quite bold, and a few months ago, actually came into our apartment and stole a bag of candy floss Kai had gotten from a party. He also managed to squeeze through our almost shut bathroom window and bite our tube of toothpaste.
He’s “terrorized” other apartment units and houses in the estate often enough for the NEA/AVA to post tips on our notice boards on how to handle the monkey menace. Securing rubbish bins with bungee cords was one tip — which made me assume that the NEA think that monkeys don’t know how to undo bungee cords.
There are several other useful ones, such as carrying your child on your shoulders to give the monkey the impression that you are a lot bigger (and that there is no small child for it to attack), and not looking the monkey in the eye (I dunno, monkeys behave like Singapore gangs, I guess, and might be provoked by staring).
But we were most encouraged by the tip that the macaques would usually visit at a certain time of day, and so kept a “monkey diary” recording the time of every monkey sighting. This was useful because it meant we could keep our windows open for most of the day, enjoying the fresh-ish air sans air-con, bar for what we called “monkey hour”, which was 5.30–6.30pm.
I don’t know what happened last week, but the lone ranger macaque must have gotten wind of our diary and has since mixed up his schedule, attempting to come into our apartment willy nilly anyhowly anytime.
We hear that the AVA is trying to trap this fella and bring him further into the Nature Reserve. They haven’t succeeded because I think he’s reading their memos.
[Check out this video of a macaque raiding a Rasa Sentosa room’s minibar]
Yesterday morning on waking up, I checked my phone for messages, and read about the Boston Marathon bombing. As Naomi and I headed to our kitchen for breakfast with Kai, I decided to turn on the television for updates.
Kai started to ask what we were watching on tv. As has been our policy, we attempted to explain in as age appropriate a manner as possible what had happened, and why it was a very bad thing that happened, caused by a very bad person, nobody knows who yet, and why it was a very sad day.
It didn’t quite sink in — partly because Kai was taken in by the novelty of us turning on the tv at breakfast, and partly because the event was a race, and there was a bomb.
We’re still struggling to wean him off his little boy’s diet of pretend cars crashing, guns shooting (especially in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy) and bombs exploding, and he doesn’t completely grasp why we ban toy gun play at home when he sees other kids playing with toy guns and replicas.
On the way home yesterday evening, he asked if he could have some tv time after dinner — he wanted to watch the one about the race and the bomb. We explained again why it wasn’t a happy thing to watch. Thankfully he was quite exhausted and settled for another episode of Dinosaur Train instead.
(I found this last night: What to tell your kids about the Boston Marathon Bombing).
There’s this large patch of grass at U-Town, NUS that was today almost completely bare, bar three Ang Moh students playing a sad game of three man touch football.
If this had been on a campus in Australia, the lawn would have been chock full of students lying on it, getting some sun. There would also have been four or five games of different forms of football being played at the same time, with playing areas marked by shoes, slippers or bags.
But this is Singapore, and the only other populated area were the seats under the sheltered alfresco area across from us, where students looked like they were studying.
Anyway, it was really good to know that for all the branded-chained restaurants everywhere on campus, there’s one cafe that sells honest, healthy food: Central Park @ U Town.
(And especially for blazing saddle days like today, they carry Popaganda popsicles too!)
Taking a break does wonders for your physical and mental well-being. Even without taking on a spa package at the hotel we stayed at because it was, how you say it, frikkin’ expensive, the knots in my neck and upper back dissolved after one full night’s sleep (it came back after my son insisted on being carried on my shoulders at the aquarium, but nair mind lah, hor?)
So by pure coincidence, one of the top prizes of HPB’s Healthy Rivalry campaign is a Stay In Shape package for FOUR (worth $3,000) at the Amara Sanctuary Sentosa. I say again, the stay is for FOUR people! Not two, but FOUR. You can double date! And you don’t even have to fly there!
All you have to do is get as many rivalries going as possible. Issue your friends a challenge, and get them to take the Healthy Lifestyle Index, and watch yourself climb up the leaderboard and WIN!
MTL! DO IT NOW! http://bit.ly/HLIsgBM
EYES ON THE PRIZES:
Grand Prize — $3,000
•Amara Sanctuary’s Stay in Shape retreat for 4 pax ($880 nett, $440 per pair) (Inclusive of GST & Srv Charge)
•4 Fitbit Zip ($420)
•2 pairs of Creative Culinaire healthy cooking class ($400)
•$200 worth of World of Sports vouchers for sports apparel/ shoes per pax ($800)
•$75 worth of NTUC vouchers for healthy grocery shopping per pax ($300)
Second Prize — $2,000
•Espa Executive Stress buster X 2 ($823.9 nett for 2)
•2 Fitbit Zip ($210)
•1 pair of Creative Culinaire healthy cooking class ($200)
•$200 worth of World of Sports vouchers for sports apparel/ shoes per pax ($400)
•$120 worth of NTUC vouchers for healthy grocery shopping per pax ($240)
Third Prize — $1,000
•Espa Sports Wellness X 2 ($706.20 nett for 2)
•$150 worth of World of Sports vouchers for sports apparel/ shoes per pax ($300)
Last week we decided we needed a break from routine, and stayed on Sentosa for an ownself-made long weekend. I never thought I’d say this, especially after years of making fun of the place as “Singapore’s Last Resort Island”, but Sentosa’s really grown on us. Well, it’s really kinda just grown, actually. There’re now so many things to do, so many somethings for everyone, that it takes more than just a weekend to cover every activity.
This was our third Sentosa staycation, and we packed in a buffet dinner, a celebrity chef lunch, an aquarium visit, a birthday dinner, a trapeze try out, a daily swim, and we still managed to get more sleep a night than we’ve had for a long time.
We also managed to do the first-world tourist loser thing and get lost while scooting at night (we brought our own kick-scooters) on the hotel’s grounds that we had to be rescued by staff with a buggy.
I am extremely impressed at NTUC Secretary-General’s aversion to Powerpoint. I would have switched off at probably the second slide or so if he had used it.
Instead (you can see an example of his freehand presentation in this video at 0:53s) there was a refreshingly engaging encounter as Mr Lim Swee Say spent over two hours explaining the role of the NTUC, how he got to become Secretary-General, and what his aims were in trying to improve the labour market situation as well as ameliorate the social costs of economic growth.
Unless you’re an economist, or labour market policy maker, you’re likely to still find the session as interesting as watching the glowing logo on top of the NTUC Centre building change colour. Or less.
I was still curious to know why there was an aversion to a mandatory national minimum wage, or even different minimum wages for different industries. Some supporters of minimum wage already claim that Singapore isn’t doing enough to lift the lowest wages off the floor, like what Hong Kong (HKD 3,580 per month for foreign domestic workers) and Malaysia (USD 281.60 per month for the private sector) are doing.
There is no such thing as the perfect market, and Mr Upturn The Downturn gave a refresher course on labour economics for those turned off because a junior college economics lecturer insisted on referring to something called “Kee-Nee-Sian” economics. (It was only in my first semester of university, after having been made the laughing stock of my first year econs class that I started pronouncing it as students of John Maynard Keynes intended.)
Two permanent ink marker pens and six sheets later, I was aware of a thing called the Progressive Wage Model, as opposed to a silver bullet or “shock therapy” Minimum Wage Model proposed by some.
Instead of merely boosting pay, the labour movement has been, since June last year, aiming to improve the lowest earning workers’ “productivity, skills and career prospects” by means of highly subsidised skills training. The NTUC has also been apparently instrumental in getting government ministries and agencies — themselves very large employers, to only engage companies who let their staff participate in skills training — a move which will earn them accreditation necessary to win government contracts.
The NTUC also has to work in concert with Government to ensure that jobs are created, and that these jobs are filled without employers resorting to and relying on cheap, imported labour at the expense of productivity.
It is a tough balance to strike, and whether the Progressive Wage Model is a better model than a one-stop Minimum Wage as Lim Swee Say says it is may be a bit too early to tell.
I will have you all know that it hasn’t got much to do with Cheaperer, Betterer, Fasterer. The Secretary-General did attempt to explain his much maligned motto in context, but that’s for another story.
I propose they quickly put this in our immigration arrival cards for visitors to Singapore:
Welcome to Singapore
As you may know, our judiciary this week denied a Constitutional challenge to one of our very old and established pieces of an old and established piece of legislation.
We wish to inform all visitors that there is no cause for worry. It was an expected outcome. Our judiciary has always been the kind of institution that would effectively say that it was not within their scope of work to uphold whatever rights that are in the nation’s Constitution.
Furthermore, there are no limits to the Constitutional amending power of Parliament anyway, which means that our nation’s Parliament can simply change the Constitution to entrench GLBT rights when the time is right to do so.
But in the meantime while you are visiting Singapore, please be informed that the police can come knocking on your door and say they suspect you of having gay sex, because the law as it has been left standing says they can come knocking on your door suspecting you of having gay sex.
If you are thinking of applying for a job and settling down on our city in a garden because you like our local grub and clime so much, your prospective employer can also ask you if you have engaged in gay sex, and if you took offence, he can say it was a valid question because it is within his rights to know if you have criminal tendencies. He may reject your job application because the law, as it has been left standing, says he CAN.
If you did successfully apply for an Employment Pass and managed to rent an apartment, your landlord could evict you if he found evidence of you having engaged in gay sex on his premises because they law, as it as been left standing, says he CAN.
The Neighbourhood Watch can also survey your residence and report any suspected criminal activity to the police, because the law, as it has been left standing, says they CAN.
If the locals call you names such as Faggot, Homo, Ah Kua, Bapok, Pondan and berate you for being a criminal, don’t worry. It is merely because they are upright and law-abiding citizens screaming in your face such things because the law that has been left standing says they CAN.
We hope your enjoy your stay. Don’t forget to visit the new aquarium on Sentosa.
A fortnight ago, mrbrown and myself visited Tekka Market. It is a happy place though you’d normally think otherwise. It’s hot, noisy, smelly and gets really crowded at peak shopping hours.
So what makes people at Tekka happy? Is it because that venerable wet market has resisted the tide of change and retained its Hokkien name? (It was for a short time known as Zhujiao, much to everyone’s dismay). Is it because it’s a happy confluence of China and India and everything in between?
It would likely be the array of food laid out at market, together with the shopper’s delight at having bargained twenty, thirty cents off a bunch of vegetables, and the thought of bringing all that fresh produce home to make a meal for the family.
There are fresh vegetables from wherever we import vegetables, and herbs that you’d think only Cold Storage or some other atas grocer would stock. And in a darker corner in the market, there is a Tamil lady who sells only banana leaves. In two sizes — One for “praying” and one for eating off.
This, well, happy combination would warm the cockles of anyone’s heart, I think. Speaking of which, cockles can be bought at several seafood stalls in the slippery middle aisle of the market.
There was also a kinda-sorta-if-you-ignored-the-signage-next-to-them impromptu concert in the market itself, though not in the slippery aisle, ‘cos you’d cause all sorts of calamity if someone got electrocuted, ‘cos wet market floors and sound equipment don’t get along, y’know?
The singer, Belvyn Khoo, and her accompanist guitarist serenaded all and sundry with their renditions of Teresa Teng classics such as Sweet Like Honey and The Moon Represent, Yo.
It brought smiles and curious looks to everyone within earshot.
Then all hell broke loose.
Some woman — I have no idea if she’s a stallholder or customer — barged her way to the stage and commandeered the microphone and asked Belvyn’s guitarist to follow her lead. I think she sang “My Way”, though I couldn’t really tell from the off-key rendition.
Now that got everyone’s attention, and it got the biggest cheer of the morning.
Anyone that says Singaporeans are unhappy can go and lick the floor of the slippery middle aisle.
I urge everyone to be like that bold and slightly tone deaf woman and spread joy and happiness everywhere you go. Then share your happy moments on the Happy Everywhere Facebook App, and yes, stand a chance to win stuff.
- Shanghai Is Still In China (And Singapore Airlines Is A Great Way To Fly)
- Happy Mother’s Day
- Please Take Dengue Seriously
- Seminyak Highlights
- This Blog Has Been Rallied
- Ownself Declare Long Weekend
- Want Your Union To Have A Greater Say? Join Them
- My Father And The Gangster Fella Lee Kuan Yew
- Everyone Is Responsible For Fighting Dengue
- A #HealthyRivalry For The Ages
- Cheaper Better Faster
- Stand Up To Pervs
- Show Me The Monkey
- Explaining Boston To A Four Year Old
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