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Free-trade fears confirmed after Batam visit

13 November 2000

PM should visit Batam before signing Singapore FTA

Green Party co-leader Rod Donald is urging Prime Minister Helen Clark to take a first hand look at what free trade means in Singapore before she signs a closer economic partnership agreement there on Tuesday.

Rod Donald has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Singapore. He visited a joint Singapore-Indonesian industrial park on the Indonesian island of Batam just off the coast of Singapore, where 95 corporations including Sanyo, Sony and Phillips make a wide range of electronic, mechanical and electrical products.

"While the working conditions I saw were better than I expected my fears about the impact of free trade were confirmed," Rod Donald said. "Young workers are treated as labour units, discarded when the company has extracted what it can get from them, rather than full citizens who want to live with their families in the community."

Mr Donald said Ms Clark, who has in the past championed fair trade, should see for herself both the destruction of the environment and the way workers are treated by corporations in their pursuit of profits during her visit to Singapore."

"It is of major disappointment to the Green Party that the government was so keen to stitch up a free trade Agreement with Singapore it gave away the commitment made in the Speech from the Throne to ensure that core labour and environmental standards would be incorporated in these agreements.

"While the factory I visited was neat and tidy, the working conditions were pleasant and the skilled factory workers were probably paid more than where they came from in Indonesia, this doesn't disguise the harsh reality that thousands of young women are exploited in these factories.

"They are required to work a five and a half day week for less than NZ$1 an hour, there is no job security with two to four year contracts rarely renewed, and the on-site company supplied accommodation consists of two tier bunks in 16 bed dormitories.

On the other hand Singaporean management staff live on the other side of the island in company paid homes on an executive estate complete with golf course and they are paid a "hardship allowance" on top of their Singaporean salaries.

Rod Donald MP: 025 507 183

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