New NSP boss: Now for the real work

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By Mary Lee

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) yesterday returned Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss unopposed to the position of secretary-general, which was vacated when Hazel Poa stepped down for health reasons. Now that this “little formality” has been sorted out, she said, “NSP can get on with issues that affect Singaporeans and continue our outreach efforts to stay close to the ground”.

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Chong-Aruldoss said NSP “hopes to inspire more good people to volunteer with us”. “There are many issues to look at and Singapore is dynamic. Things are always changing and NSP has to stay on top of things.”

Apart from working the grassroots by providing monthly free legal clinics, NSP has been speaking out on the foreign worker issue in Singapore. In a statement last month, it said: “(We welcome) the Ministry of Manpower’s announcement on 23 September 2013 on the new Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) which requires employers to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring Employment Pass (EP) holders. For some time, opposition parties and concerned citizens have urged the Government to review its policies relating to the employment of non-Singaporeans.

“In our 2011 General Elections Manifesto, we had specifically called on the Government to grant priority to Singaporeans in employment. We are glad that the Government has heeded the call to level the playing field between Singaporeans and foreigners for job opportunities and has moved to improve employment opportunities for Singaporeans.”

But there is still work to be done in this area, according to the NSP: “Coming into force in August 2014, the FCF will only apply to the hiring of EP holders.  The Ministry has justified this by saying that levies and dependency ratio ceilings will spur firms to search for suitable Singaporeans before applying for an S-pass or Work Permit (WP).
“The employer who hires a Singaporean at a salary of $2,200 (qualifying salary for S-Pass applicants) will have to pay about $350 as the employer’s portion of CPF contribution for hiring that Singaporean worker, but the employer has only to pay $300 levy for hiring a foreigner for the same job, as long as the employer remains within the quota.
“,Even if this levy will be increased to $330 in the year 2015, there is little incentive for the employers to hire Singaporeans because with the foreign worker, the employer may not have to grapple with manpower issues like staff turnover, yearly increments and increased costs related to staff benefits like four months maternity leave, National Service In-Camp Training call up, etc.

“NSP reiterates that the single largest factor that prevented the wages of the citizen workforce from rising is the large supply of foreign workers who are willing to accept lower pay, as it is very convenient for employers to have foreign workers who may not demand better wages, or take up other jobs. This undermines the natural economic forces… and (removes) the impetus for higher wage demands.”

There’s clearly enough work to keep NSP’s central executive committee busy. The CEC will be meeting on Nov 27 to elect a new vice-president, the post  Chong-Aruldoss has held.