MOM proposes tribunal for pay-related disputes

April 28, 201410:13 am339 views
MOM proposes tribunal for pay-related disputes
MOM proposes tribunal for pay-related disputes

SINGAPORE — Managers and executives earning more than S$4,500 a month can look forward to a cheaper and faster means of settling salary-related disputes, under a proposal by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Currently, these employees — who are not covered by the Employment Act — have to turn to the civil courts if they are not union members.

Speaking at the MOM workplan seminar yesterday, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin announced that his ministry is proposing the set-up of a Small Employment Claims Tribunal catering to all workers here. “This would include managers and executives earning more than S$4,500, who currently can pursue breaches of employment only through civil suits, which can be a protracted and expensive process,” Mr Tan said.

In the coming months, the ministry will discuss the proposal with stakeholders. More details will be announced later.

Within the next two years, the ministry also intends to mandate the provision of key employment terms — such as salary, working hours, as well as duties and responsibilities — in written contracts, along with the requirement for companies to provide itemised payslips.

This will help prevent misunderstanding at the workplace and facilitate the resolution of disputes, even though about 90 per cent of employers already provide employment contracts in writing, added Mr Tan.

The Population White Paper projects that, by 2030, two-thirds of Singaporeans will hold jobs as professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), up from about 1 in 2 now.

The proposal to set up the tribunal was welcomed by the labour movement, which has been ramping up its recruitment of PMEs as members. Currently, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has more than 200,000 PMEs on its books — or a fifth of the one million PMEs in the resident labour force. It aims to increase this proportion to a quarter.

NTUC PME Alignment Unit Director Patrick Tay pointed out that PMEs earning more than S$4,500 and who are not members of the union lack protection. Still, the proposed tribunal “should not dilute the role of the union”, he said.

The Small Claims Employment Tribunal will handle disputes on statutory issues under the Employment Act for workers who are covered under the act, as well as salary-related contractual terms and conditions — such as commissions, bonuses and annual-wage-supplement payments for all employees.

The MOM is proposing that the claims be subject to a limit on the amount of payment that can be awarded, and that employees seeking higher payouts seek redress at the civil courts.

It is also looking into a similar appeal mechanism under the Small Claims Tribunal, where parties can appeal to the High Court against the decision or order made.

While he supported the set-up of the proposed tribunal, Singapore National Employers Federation President Stephen Lee said it should not displace internal dispute settlement procedures at individual companies.

Migrant Workers Centre Chairman Yeo Guat Kwang felt that, for foreign workers, the impact of the tribunal might be limited if it is set up before the MOM mandates the provision of key employment terms. “(Migrant workers) often do not have written contracts, payslips or even time-cards in their possession to serve as evidence,” he said.

Mr Tan said the two-year time frame was to allow businesses time to adjust. Meanwhile, the MOM will introduce a set of tripartite guidelines by the second half of the year to help employers provide these key employment terms to their employees in writing.

PMEs TODAY spoke to lauded the proposal. Sales and Marketing Manager Crystal Chan, 26, noted that salary claims are a touchy subject for workers to bring up to employers. “So, hopefully, the tribunal will have a mediator to assist us when we deal with bosses,” she said.



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