I got this piece of news couple of days ago.



AS SINGAPORE’S unions move ahead to tackle the longstanding problem of declining productivity, they will be adopting a new attitude to another persistent problem – companies hiring cheap foreign workers.

Rather than focusing on the current “local workers versus foreign workers" debate, the discussion moving forward “should be more on low-productivity workers versus high-productivity workers", said labour chief Lim Swee Say of the new labour movement “mindset" yesterday.

This is because any worker, local or foreign, trapped in a low-productivity job would still be “an economic problem" for the Republic.

Explaining, Mr Lim said the Singapore economy in certain sectors will then continue to be labour intensive, and will be competing on the basis of low productivity, low skill and low cost.

“That will not be sustainable," he said. These low-productivity workers would also continue to “live in a very difficult environment" and cause social problems.

But as long as the industry moves toward high productivity, all workers “would be able to have a good job, good salary, and hopefully, live a good life", said Mr Lim.

Speaking to the media at the sidelines of the Buona Vista Emergency Preparedness Day at Holland Close, the secretary-general for the National Trades Union Congress elaborated on his recent call for companies to be “faster, better and cheaper".

Being faster refers to being flexible to changes in the global market, while being better and cheaper means that companies would have better capabilities and be increasing their productivity.

In the future, marginal improvements in productivity, such as the 1 to 3 per cent of previous years “may be too slow, not effective, irrelevant", said Mr Lim.

“We are pushing for a quantum leap in our skills, capability, flexibility."

To employers who persist in operating in a low-productivity environment, Mr Lim warned: “Our workforce is getting better educated … (Employers) will continue to face problems in recruiting local workers."

Enhancing the productivity of Singapore’s 2.7 million workers would mean that “the impact is a lot more sustainable compared to increasing workforce", he pointed out.

Over the coming weeks, the tripartite partners will launch some initiatives supporting the “cheaper, better and faster" strategy.

Some will be targeted at transforming the entire workforce in the manufacturing sector, others will focus on achieving a “quantum leap in service standard," said Mr Lim.

For now, “there are still many schemes not fully utilised by the industries," he pointed out.

To transform industries “in the shortest time possible," Mr Lim said the labour movement will proactively reach out “company by company", and work with economic agencies, government agencies as well as industry associations.

Foreign workers – less salary

Local workers – more salary

Work = same

Productivity = Work / Salary

How is then a local worker able to compete with FT?