29 Jul 2003

Democratization of Work

Well today I have decided to write a more serious article on the current working conditions in Singapore. Apart from the annoyance of having to work 6 days a week, there are a few issues that need to be addressed. The issues are avoided within all the media controlled newspapers, TV stations and radio stations. The issue is linked to poor job satisfaction and the high level of staff turnover, which must have a detrimental effect on the nations productivity. So instread of calling for Singaporean workers to change their mind sets I feel it is necessary to demand a 'Democratisation of Work'.

The political theorist David Held argues that 'democracy' although a highly dubious and argumentative concept, possesses the following generally held notions.

Number one is 'Equality', that the relationship between the parties involved is that of equal partnership. When applied to the Singaporean worker's conditions this is regarded as a normative value within other relationships, and the working relationship is not exempt from this criteria. Decisions that effect each partner should involve each member in the decision making process. Rather than commands being issued from the management or government.

Number two is 'Autonomy', whereby people are in the relationship as a result of choice and they have a degree of freedom as to how they define their personal space. This involves issues of appearance, working hours and conditions. Working over-time without receiving proper monetary compensation is eating into individuals personal lives and eroding time spent with family and significant others. Resulting in long term detrimental effects on the birth rate and individuals ability to define themselves or be creative.

Number three is 'Respect', that each others views and wishes are given the respect that they demand. No ones grievance should be brushed aside or merely ridiculed without proper consideration. This is particularly important with relation to an open dialogue that is not manipulated and is not simply the imposition of the managements motives and goals at the expense of the work force. Which leads us to...

Number four, 'Communication', that discourse and discussion are free from interference and to refer to Habarmas, that anyone can at anytime introduce a topic for discussion or as a summary of Habarmas:

Habarmas Ideal Speech Situation;

1. Each subject who is capable of speech and action is allowed to participate in discourses.

2. A.) Each is allowed to call into question any proposal.

B) Each is allowed to introduce any proposal into discourse.

C) Each is allowed to express his attitudes, wishes, and needs.

3. No speaker ought to be hindered by compulsion - whether arising from inside the discourse or outside of it from making use of the rights secured under [1 and 2].

And finally, 'Free from violence', now this criteria will require a little alteration in order to include safety at work and health care benefits for workers. It does however also include freedom from the constant threat of, 'well if you don't like it you can leave', issued by an individual who is aware that the worker cannot leave. This is a threat of 'retrenchment' or 'sacking' and should be regarded as a verbal warning to all those present. The situation usually arises when an arbitrary altering of working conditions is about to be implimented thereby rendering all, if any, contracts invalid. It is a threat of violence to the ability of the worker to maintain an income. It is a THREAT.

The issues outlined above are merely values that many feel but are unable to express in Singapore. They maybe unattainable but that does not necessarily mean they can be ignored. The trade unions here are to put it nicely a 'joke'. The workers have no one to protect them from the ever changing whims of the management and the government. They have no real voice, and no means of expressing their legitimate concerns. However, managers and government administrator should always remember that Singapore is NOTHING without it's workforce.

No comments: