Based on the cases Singapore’s Labour Movement has encountered in the past few years, in a blog post on Friday (19 Jan), National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) assistant secretary general Patrick Tay shared three changes the Labour Movement hopes to see in the Employment Act (EA).
In the blog post, he summarised the 3Es NTUC hopes to see:
- Expansion of the scope of the EA to cover PMEs beyond the current S$4,500 limit
- Extension of the Part IV protection to cover non-workman beyond the current S$2,500 limit
- Enhancements to the existing dispute resolution framework
On the removal of the S$4,500 salary cap, Tay wrote: “With rising median wages (including that of PMEs) and PMEs gradually forming the majority of the workforce, there is a need to review this $4,500 cap to ensure the EA serves the majority of the working population.”
While he understood that the intent of the cap is to strike a balance between the rights of employees and to allow companies to manage their labour obligations and costs, Tay felt that the changing profile of Singapore’s workforce requires a regular review of the scope of coverage of the EA to ensure that these policy tensions are adequately balanced.
“In fact, whether there is in fact a need to have this “PME versus Rank and File” dichotomy is something we need to review whether now or in the near future. I submit therefore we should remove this $4,500 salary cap,” he added.
On the extension of the Part IV protection to cover non-workman beyond the current S$2,500 limit, Tay argued that to keep pace with wage movements, there is a need to review the $2,500 and $4,500 limits accordingly and raise it to keep pace with rising median wages.
Moving ahead, Tay also saw a need to address whether the dichotomy between ‘workman’ and ‘non-workman’ is still tenable and also whether it is also appropriate to consider extending the scope of Part IV to PMEs.
“This may well be needed as the dichotomy between ‘Rank and File’ and ‘PME’ workers becomes increasingly blurred but it will require a closer and deeper examination as it will have a significant impact to both workers and employers,” Tay added.
On enhancing the existing dispute resolution framework, Tay felt that as more workers especially PMEs facing such unfair/wrongful dismissals, it is an imperative that the Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) be expanded to cover unfair/wrongful dismissal cases over and above the current salary related claims.
Tay added: “Another area for enhancement and greater clarity would be the very technical and highly moot provision of Section 18A of the EA. In it, an employer has the right to transfer an employee to another employer if the organisation is being restructured. Section 18A allows for the transfer of employees to a new entity.
He suggested the government should consider amending Section 18A to provide greater clarity while bringing up an alternative to issue tripartite guidelines or an explicit articulation on what transfers/transactions fall within or outside of Section 18A.
“This is one area that has constantly been tested, challenged and greater clarity would be a boon for unions, employers and legal counsels,” Tay said.
Tay concluded that these three areas are crucial areas for review to ensure the EA stays relevant and serves the needs of the future workforce, the future of work and the future of workplaces.
However, he added: “We must bear in mind that the amendments should not compromise the need to preserve effective collective bargaining and bring more workers within the tripartite relationship.”
These recommendations come on the back of the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) invitation for feedback on areas being considered in the review of the EA which was announced a day before (18 Jan).
Photo / NTUC
Caption: NTUC ASG Patrick Tay highlights three key areas of review to the Employment Act to ensure it remains relevant