Oh no … not another labour disputes panel?

We refer to the article “More PMEs may get help in disputes with employers” (Straits Times, Apr 30).

Recently … all of a sudden … so many new help schemes?

It states that “More professionals who join unions may soon get help when they have problems with their employers, whether or not their companies are unionised or recognise their unions.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin pointed at this possibility yesterday, when he revealed that a mediation panel handling such disputes is under review.

Under consideration, he said, is the raising of the monthly salary ceiling of people who can seek mediation beyond the current $4,500. Such a move would benefit more professionals, executives and managers (PMEs).

Rank-and-file workers cannot take their disputes to the panel?

Rank-and-file workers may also take their disputes to the panel – something that they are not able to do now.”

– Why is it that rank-and-file workers are not able to currently take their disputes to the panel?

So many new panels?

As to “Another area under study is expanding the scope of the panel to cover more issues.

“The expanded scope… will strengthen the employment dispute resolution landscape in Singapore,” said Mr Tan.

Currently, the panel, called the Tripartite Mediation Framework, handles only disputes on salary arrears, payment of retrenchment benefits and breach of contract by an employer.

It was formed in 2011 by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Although it is a voluntary conciliation process, employers can be ordered by the MOM to turn up or risk a fine of up to $5,000.

Only 12 cases heard in 3 years?

Mr Tan said the panel has resolved many of the disputes it handled in the past three years. It has heard 12 cases since it was set up, the MOM told The Straits Times”

– Only 12 cases were heard in the past 3 years since it was set up!

475 complaints – no outcomes’ statistics?

According to the Tripartite’s annual review 2013 – “Overall, fair opportunities for Singaporeans continued to be the top issue handled by TAFEP, accounting for more than half of the complaints, followed by issues of age (1 in 5) and language/race (1 in 6).

There were 475 complaints received, involving 295 employers.”

– Why is there no mention as to what is the outcome or progress of the 475 complaints it received last year?

Has the 12 cases heard in the last 3 years got anything to do with the 475 complaints?

More overlapping panels – Tripartite not working?

With regard to “News of the review came barely a week after the MOM proposed setting up a labour tribunal.

The tribunal will open its doors to all local employees who have salary disputes with their employers, regardless of how much they earn and whether or not they are union members.

It is unclear if the labour tribunal and mediation panel will overlap in their roles, as both are still being discussed by NTUC, SNEF and MOM”

– Why are there so many tribunals and panels in the pipeline? Do these indicate that our much touted Tripartite is not working?

Only 0.3% of businesses have signed the pledge?

In respect of “Since the introduction of the Pledge in 2006, more than 2,600 employers have affi rmed their support by signing the Pledge. In 2013, more than 430 companies took the step to be fair and responsible by signing the Employers’ Pledge of Fair Employment Practices”

– As I understand that there are more than 150,000 companies and businesses in Singapore – getting 430 companies to sign the pledge may be just like a drop in the ocean!

SY Lee and 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.