Labour Day 2022
This labour day, let us remember that to combat climate change and fight for a fair and sustainable future, we need to focus our efforts around workers and their needs. In a world where the climate crisis, poverty, inequality, incarceration and many other manifestations of exploitation and oppression are closely linked, we cannot fight climate change without fighting for the rights of workers. Indeed, contrary to what the capitalist class would have us believe, climate action does not threaten workers’ livelihoods. In fact, workers all around the world are disproportionately affected by the climate and environmental crisis, and therefore, climate action that prioritises workers and their needs is necessary to the future of work.
From farmers and fishermen’s livelihoods being threatened by accelerating rates of land, river and sea degradation, to blue-collared and gig workers facing increasingly extreme weather, workers all over the world depend on climate action to create a more livable future. After all, the source of all value and wealth ultimately originates from land and labour, and today both workers and the land (consisting of nonhuman labour), are being exploited and degraded by the extractivist capitalist political economy. we must recognize that both climate and labour issues lead us back to the same roots, and we must seek to address both in unison.
Let us then build a democratic green future that centres the voices, rights and welfare of workers. Ordinary workers, who contribute the least to climate change, and who benefit the least from the capitalist system should not be made to bear the brunt of climate change and climate policies. Those working in extractive and pollutive sunset industries should also not be made to feel punished by a green transition. This is why we must emphasise the importance of a just transition in our efforts to combat climate change. The ones whose interests must be prioritised are the workers, and the ones whose interests must make way are the capitalist elites who have benefited and profited at the detriment of the environment and the exploitation of labour. This labour day, as environmentalists, let us pledge to always centre the working class in our efforts, to always view climate and labour issues as interconnected. Let us work together rather than apart. We must build strong and robust alliances and movements to resist the oppression and exploitation from the ruling classes.
A year ago, we held an open meeting on our petition against the government’s petrol hike, calling for better rights for private hire drivers and food delivery riders. However, little has changed since then, even as others like sgrooriders have continued to speak up. While a less car-centric society is necessary for a greener future, gig workers should not be the ones who feel the biggest pinch to their livelihoods, while platform capitalists line their pockets at the same time. Let us revisit some of what our speakers said last year, and also let the Singapore government know that as much as we appreciate their efforts to combat climate change, it is imperative that their climate policies put workers at its heart.
“We must make sure that our climate policies and actions do not end up widening further social inequality by disproportionately penalising those who are making an honest living yet contributing the least to our carbon emissions. How can we do that? By not excluding them from the planning” – Anthea Low
“Workers and people in the environmental movement both want a better tomorrow, and we are not at odds with each other.” – Ho Xiang Tian
“The climate crisis and its multifarious responses finds itself precisely situated in this age of increasing isolation and alienation. Workers’ rights have historically been an issue systematically and forcefully side-lined and silenced, as politicians and corporations band together to suppress the human rights that threaten the accumulation of their personal wealth."
“The fact that workers in Singapore were made to bear the brunt of the climate crisis is not yet another isolated mistake from the establishment; it is a part of a broader frame which isolates causes and groups from one another. Greenwashing, and the state’s apparent support for climate activism are not real, if they involve silencing workers’ rights or supporting climate action as though it were an isolated issue. Saving the planet is not saving the planet if it does so only for the ruling class” – Sean Francis Han
“The future of work should be up to us, workers. Not for politicians or experts to decide on our behalf. Because as we can see- with the abrupt petrol hike, the abrupt PMD ban, the GST increase, the reluctance to pass even a wealth tax, not even 1%, they care MORE about profit than labour, than our livelihoods.” – K
“Any environmental policy should not, and cannot, come at the expense of the working class. After all, climate change was not caused by the working class; hence we should not be made to pay for something that isn’t our fault.”
This holds true for even workers in the pollutive industries; they are just trying, at the end of the day, to make an honest living. They don’t decide what the company or industry produces; the bosses at the t op make that decision. The fastest way for environmentalists here to permanently ruin any sort of hope for ambitious green policy would be to alienate the working class” – Yi Hung
“We must also tackle ableism in climate change discourse. When we talk about a car-lite world, we must recognise that there are people who rely on cars and taxis to get around, we must commit to ensuring that public transportation and pathways are accessible. We need to realise that the logic that is willing to regard some bodies as “unproductive” and therefore unworthy, is the very same logic that is willing to relentlessly extract from our Earth and exploit workers.” – Min Jie
“It is the workers who drive the petrol cars and deliver the food using petrol vehicles, but it is the bosses who profit from those activities. The workers who enable the industry to run on a day-to-day basis, have no power whatsoever to say that it should be run in a socially useful, environmentally friendly way... What we are saying with our petition is that we refuse to be in the backseat while the bosses are driving us towards a climate crisis. In order to really tackle climate change, we need to build a fighting labour movement that can fight for industries to be run on the basis of social need and not on the basis of profit. That is what it means to have a democratic society.” – Sara
“Marx said “A statement of labour’s grievances are the first act which we must perform in order to prepare the way for social regeneration...This petition isn’t just a petition. It is a statement of labour’s grievances. It represents individual experiences being turned into collective knowledge, and collective knowledge being turned into collective demands.” – Sara