Only pilots’ union not with NTUC?


Our non-independent, ‘conflict of interest’ labour movement always headed by a Cabinet Minister is a joke for unions in the world!

I refer to the article “Operating pressures strain SIA-pilots relations” (Straits Times, Sep 18).

It states that “While management-union relations became less acrimonious after 2003, there continued to be disagreements between the airline and Alpa-S – one of four unions that represent SIA workers and the only major union in Singapore not affiliated with the National Trades Union Congress.

On at least two occasions, the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC) had to intervene.”

I was struck my the above – “the only major union in Singapore not affiliated with the National Trades Union Congress”.

Singapore is arguably, the laughing stock of the world, when it cones to unions, because we have always has a Cabinet Minister as our unions’ chief.

No other country in the world is like this.

So, why does it matter whether a country has independent unions or not?

Well, let’s look at how Singaporean workers’ rights have been protected or not.

886,300 or about 39 per cent of the total resident labour force (886,300 divided by 2,269,700( total)), or about 4 in 10 resident workers, had a gross monthly income less than $2,500 (only about $2,000 less 20% employee CPF) including employee CPF contribution (791,900 workers), or were unemployed (94,400 non-seasonally adjusted) in June 2017.

With regard to “described workers as “the core of our success”, noting that Singapore’s economy had grown steadily this year, building on the 3.6 per cent growth last year.

Setting out the five areas, he said one of them is to help workers get better pay and welfare, as well as have better work prospects.

NTUC will also roll out more progressive wage models (PWMs) for low-wage workers, which specify higher pay for workers as they upgrade their skills” – the PWM has arguably been a failure from the perspective of low-wage workers.

In this regard, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s  (MOM) web site – Progressive Wage Model  (PWM) Cleaning Sector – “If you have new service contracts that starts from 1 July 2017, you must use the following revised wages” – (at least) $1,060 for Group 1 – Office & Commercial – General/Indoor Cleaners, (and) Group 2 – F & B Establishment – General Cleaners”.

Isn’t a basic monthly salary of $1,060, including employee’s CPF still very very low?

In respect of “Another area of focus is older workers – NTUC will work on a review of the retirement age of 62 and strengthen re-employment guidelines for such workers” – according to the article “Older workers can work until age 67 from July” (Straits Times, Jan 10, 2017) –

Can transfer workers to another employer? 

“If employers cannot find work for such workers in their companies, they can transfer them to their subsidiaries or another employer with the workers’ consent, or give them a one-off payment as a last resort”

Offer any job on any salary on any terms?

Does this mean that an employer can find another employer to offer any job on any salary on any terms – and if the employee does not accept – the employer just needs to pay a one-time amount of between “$5,500 and $13,000”?

One-time payment reduced to $3,500 to $7,500?

Actually, according to TAFEP‘s re-employment guidelines – “employers who are unable to offer re-employment to employees who have been re-employed for at least 30 months since age 62, could consider offering a lower EAP amount of 2 months of salary (subject to a minimum EAP of $3,500 and a maximum EAP of $7,500)”.

So, does this mean that the EAP can now be even lower at between “$3,500 and a maximum EAP of $7,500”?

Moreover, since “The amount of the payment, which is provided for but not spelt out under the law, is at the discretion of the employer” – does it mean that employer can choose to pay just the minimum of $5,500 or $3,500 as the case may be?

Employer determines “satisfactory performance”, “healthy”, “able to work”?

As to “Employers will be required to re-hire these workers if they have satisfactory work performance and are healthy and able to continue working” – does it mean that the employer can solely and arbitrarily decide on whether the employee has “satisfactory work performance and are healthy and able to continue working”?

Employers can simply cut pay before age 60?

With regard to “On removing the law that allows employers to cut the pay of workers at age 60, Mr Lim said that joint efforts by unions, employers and the Government have been successful in getting companies to move away from a wage system where they peg salaries to years of service.

98.5% didn’t cut pay at age 60, but how many cut before 60? 

The wage-cut provision was introduced in 1999 when the retirement age was raised from 60 to 62 to help employers manage their wage bills. But by 2011, this was already not practised by 98.5 per cent of companies with employees aged 60 and above” – does it mean that employers who may have cut their older employees’ wages before they turn 60 may not be captured in the “not practised by 98.5 per cent of companies with employees aged 60 and above” statistics?

“Employers do not abuse the flexibility the new law gives them”?

In respect of “Several MPs also called for safeguards to ensure that employers do not abuse the flexibility the new law gives them.

Labour MP Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) urged the Manpower Ministry (MOM) to monitor employers who may abuse the new provision that allows them to transfer workers to another employer, as there may be cases where “the terms, conditions, environment and nature of work in the new job may vastly differ from what they had been previously employed in”- does it mean the the new employer can offer any job on any salary on any terms?

Terminate without reason before or after 65?

As to “Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Leon Perera said the law does not require employers to state reasons for terminating employment contracts, thereby allowing employers to discriminate against older workers and dismiss them without leaving a paper trail” – does it mean that employers can terminate employees without having to give any reason, at anytime, before or even after age 65?

Raising the retirement age gives more protection? 

With regard to “Mr Zainal and NCMP Daniel Goh called for the retirement age of 62 to be done away with completely, given that the re-employment age is being raised from 65 to 67.

On doing away with the retirement age, Mr Lim said that re-employment differs from retirement in that while it allows a worker to keep working, the worker need not be re-hired to do the same work or be receiving the same pay” – does this mean that raising the retirement age to 67 may give more protection to employees, whereas the re-employment act allows employers to offer any job at any salary at any terms?

Monitor to prevent abuses? 

In respect of “Responding, Mr Lim said that the MOM will monitor the implementation of the law closely to prevent abuses” – does it not make you wonder how effective any “monitoring of the implementation of the law closely to prevent abuses” may be, when the law is so weak in the first place?

98% who wished to continue offered re-employment? How many accepted?

As to “in 2015, more than 98 per cent of private-sector local employees who wished to continue working at age 62 were offered re-employment. And among those who accepted re-employment in the same job, 98 per cent did not experience any cut in their basic wages” (“Higher re-employment age passed into law in Singapore“, Channel NewsAsia, Jan 9, 2017) – how many of the 98 per cent offered re-employment accepted the offer? – much less than 98%?

How many did not wish to continue – so, no need to offer re-employment?

How many did not “wished to continue working at age 62” and were thus not offered re-employment? – much less than 98%?

How many of “those who accepted re-employment in the same job, 98 per cent did not experience any cut in their basic wages” had a cut in their gross wages or terms? – much less than 98%?

How many were not offered the same job and accepted? – much less than 98%?

How many were offered a different job with possibly a cut in wages or terms, and accepted the offer? – much less than 98%?

21% age 60 and above are contract workers?

With regard to “in June 2015, we still have 21 per cent of resident employees aged 60 and above (who) were on term contracts,” said Assoc Prof Tan, who warned that the regulatory burden of the new legislation may drive more employers to place older employees on term contracts.

Widespread age discrimination?

“The one-year term contract, or a three-year contract, to be reviewed yearly, sustains a sense of insecurity (around) contract review and renewal, which is not the right way to treat a senior employee and colleague,” said Assoc Prof Goh.

Re-employment act does not apply to contract workers?

“There is a possibility for the loss of benefits in the switch from regular employment, to the re-employment contract. This loss of benefits – whilst being employed doing the same work for the same company, in the same workplace with the same colleagues – is solely due to the employee reaching a certain age. Is this not unfair, smacking of ageism and stigmatising for the senior Singaporeans?”” – does it mean that the re-employment act does not apply to contract workers?

The re-employment act joke has just gotten bigger?

Don’t you think that the re-employment act joke has just gotten bigger?

By the way, how much are the combined profits of the nine NTUC social enterprises?

With regard to “total employment has increased, even though retrenchment and unemployment rates crept up slightly in the April-to-June period. Total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, went up by 7,100, a sharp rise from the growth of 400 in the first quarter” – why is there no breakdown as to how much of the 7,400 employment growth in the first half of the year, went to Singaporeans, permanent residents  (PRs) and foreigners?

If we account for the average of 20,000 new citizens and 30,000 new PRs granted per year – what is the unemployment rate of true-blue Singaporeans?

Leong Sze Hian


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.