Protect PMETs from employers?

I refer to the article “NTUC wants Employment Act to cover PMEs,

more workers” (Straits Times, Nov 9).

It states that “NTUC wants at least half of Singapore’s 630,000 resident professionals, managers and executives to be covered. Currently, managers and executives are only covered in that they can go to the Labour Court for salary claims – and only if they earn $4,500 or less”.

Greatest concern of PMETs?

The main concern of PMETs and arguably their greatest problem, may be the fear of losing their jobs to foreigners (“Premium Employment Pass: Was only $34,000?”, Nov 7).

Why? Because foreigners who may be more qualified, skilled and experienced, may be willing to work for much lower pay.

Focusing on the main problem?

So, shouldn’t the labour movement be focusing on this issue?

We seem to be focusing on perhaps everything else, rather than the main issue.

So what if more PMETs are included in the Employment Act, when the Act does not protect them from losing their jobs, because employers can simply give the typical one month’s notice, or if PMETs can’t even get a job in the first place (“What the unemployment rate ‘really’ means to Singaporeans?”, Oct 31).

I am not saying that it is not an improvement to include more PMETs in the Employment Act, but rather that we should not ignore the main problem for PMETs or the poor protection afforded by the legislation.

Another example of not focusing on the main problem?

Another example like the above of what I call “not focusing on the main problem and desired outcome” issue, is perhaps highlighted in the article “Town councils are feeling the labour crunch” (Today, Nov 9),

It states that “Cuts to the foreign worker quota, and a resulting move to attract more Singaporeans to jobs once left to them, have resulted in some town councils shouldering a heftier cleaning bill, while at least one has had to ask for residents’ understanding for less-than-sparkling surroundings”.

The problem started with the very low pay of cleaners.

So, the solution was to cut back on foreign cleaners, the National Environment Agency (NEA) increasing hawkers’ cleaning fees to train cleaners and raise standards, NTUC’s Progressive Wage Concept (“Minimum wage vs Progressive wage concept?

, Oct 27), Minister in PMO Grace Fu’s “So, say, previously, 4 cleaning workers, 2 locals and 2 foreigners with each earning $1,000 per month, were needed to clean a hawker centre everyday. Through mechanization and improvement in the cleaning process, only 2 cleaning workers, say, are needed now to clean the hawker centre everyday, but still able to achieve the same level of cleanliness.

Then in theory, the cleaning company can let go of the 2 foreign workers and retain the 2 locals, even paying them a salary of $2,000 per month now. The cleaning company still makes the same amount of profit as before, the customer is happy that cleanliness is not compromised and the workers are ecstatic with their salaries doubled. Everyone is happy. That, of course, is in theory” (“Grace Fu: Workers’salaries to increase in tandem with productivity gains”, Oct 28), and now town councils’ increased cleaning fees and shortage of cleaners, etc.

We need numbers, not more talk?

But, what’s missing from all of the above and almost weekly media reports about cleaners, is that nobody seems to be focusing on the original problem – cleaners’ low pay and the desired outcome of higher pay (“Cleaners’ pay: NATO?, Oct 20).

Why are there no statistics as to how many cleaners have had their real pay increased by how much, despite all the recent measures, schemes, initiatives, etc?


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.