As the cock crows – all the labour cobwebs come to roost?


Some cabin crew unhappy over medical leave system

I refer to the article “Some SIA cabin crew unhappy over medical leave system” (Straits Times, Feb 7).

It states that “Some cabin crew working for Singapore Airlines (SIA) have expressed unhappiness over the company’s medical leave system, and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is in touch with their union and management about their concerns, The Straits Times has learnt.

Performance appraisal linked to MC?

Some crew members said the current scheme discourages those who are genuinely ill from taking medical leave. They told The Straits Times anonymously that employees have incentive points that are docked when they submit a medical certificate for common ailments such as cold and cough.

Everyone starts with 10 points each year, which are lost once 12 casual MCs are accumulated.

The Straits Times understands that these points are taken into account in staff’s annual appraisals, although they make up less than 5 per cent of the weightage.

Penalising those who are ill?

A crew member said: “The whole system is flawed. Why even make it a factor… You really just end up penalising those who are really ill.””

From 1970s to today?

In this connection, when I was working in the air transport sector in the 1970s – my understanding then was that penalising employees for taking MC was already a widespread practice.

I am thus surprised that it may still happening today.

“Declined to provide details”?

As to “SIA declined to provide details of its performance management process, but stressed that those on medical leave are encouraged to rest and recuperate at home” – arguably don’t you think “declined to provide details” may already be saying a lot?.

Operating with an MC is a disciplinary lapse?

With regard to “Operating with an MC is in fact a disciplinary lapse, said the airline” – don’t you think this may be somewhat self-contradictory? The obvious question may be – then, why have “MC” as a factor?

Apply to other staff?

Does this issue apply to other staff (non-cabin crew) as well?

“A basic protection”?

As to “MOM, which is believed to have made contact with SIA in the last week, told The Straits Times that paid sick and hospitalisation leave is “a basic protection” under the Employment Act and a core benefit in collective agreements.

A spokesman said: “Employers should avoid penalising an employee solely based on his consumption of sick leave. Employers should adopt appraisal or performance management systems which are fair, objective, and which take into consideration the employee’s ability, performance and contributions.”

Oh, you shouldn’t do this you know?

He urged all employers to communicate their employment and work-related terms and benefits to employees clearly to avoid any misunderstanding” – don’t you think that this may be akin to saying – oh, you shouldn’t do this you know – but now that you have been caught doing it – I just remind everyone that they shouldn’t be doing it hor.

You mean after all these years – nobody knows about this issue in Singapore?

Please inform us? 

In respect of “Employees who feel that they have been unfairly penalised for taking sick leave can approach the ministry for advice and assistance, he added” – arguably, as our weak labour laws may allow employers to terminate an employee without giving any reason or penalised in performance – why would any employee want to stick their neck out to inform the ministry?

Unions are aware and in discussion?

As to “When asked about these concerns, Mr Alan Tan, president of the Singapore Airlines Staff Union – SIA’s biggest union which represents cabin crew – said: “We are aware that there is some unhappiness and concern among staff, and we are in discussions with management over this issue”” – this may in a sense arguably be, like the Surbana termination saga – when the unions’ initial response which was quoted in the media was just only – “the unions are working with Surbana on how to help the affected union members. “We are still talking to the company”” (Dozens of Surbana staff lose their jobs“, Straits Times, Jan 14).

How weak labour protection & unions?

The above two incidents so far this year may highlight arguably – how weak our labour protection laws and our unions may be?

7 “weak” labour issues highlighted so far already this year!

Coincidentally and arguably, the third incident this year happened just yesterday – Only 1% of 4,500 employers who didn’t pay workers were charged? (Feb 6).

Coincidentally and arguably, the fourth incident this year also happened just a week ago – More foreigners to S’poreans soon?” (Jan 31).

And coincidentally and arguably, the fifth incident this year also happened just about a week ago – World class airport: Slave wages? (Jan 30).

And coincidentally and arguably, the sixth incident this year also happened just about 10 days ago – Keppel shed 10,600 workers: How many S’poreans? (Jan 27).

And coincidentally and arguably, the seventh incident this year also happened just about 10 days ago – Jobs: 11,400 locals, 37,300 foreigners – 60,000 new PRs, 40,000 new citizens? (Jan 26).

As the cock crows – all the labour cobwebs come to roost?

How many more labour cobwebs may come out in this year of the rooster?

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.