Union’s claim for pay hikes rejected

February 6, 201410:57 am297 views
Union’s claim for pay hikes rejected
Union's claim for pay hikes rejected

A UNION failed yesterday in its attempt to get a court order for an American company to pay its staff annual increments, when the court ruled that the staff in question had already been paid.

In a rare public dispute, the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees Union locked horns with First Defence Services at the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC) over increments for 10 workers.

The Singapore-based company provides maintenance support to the United States Navy.

The spat began in March last year, when both parties appeared at the same court in a dispute over 41 union members who had not received annual salary increments in 2011.

In that hearing, the company was ordered to give a $50 raise for workers earning up to $2,000, and a 2.5 per cent raise for those earning above $2,000.

What the union did not know was that some of the 41 had already received salary increases starting in July 2011. They included clerks and warehouse workers earning below $2,000 a month.

Yesterday, the union took the company to court again, alleging that the pay increases received by those 10 workers were separate from those ordered by the court.

Arguing before IAC president Chan Seng Onn, the union said that since it was unaware of these increments at the March hearing, they should have no bearing on the court order.

“We should not confuse the annual increments ordered by this court with those salary adjustments, which are separate issues,” said Mr Patrick Tay, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general, who represented the union.

Responding to the union, the company’s project director, Mr William Corke, said the firm had “complied completely 100 per cent” with the March court order.

He added that the company had given the 10 employees pay increases that were higher than those ordered by the court.

He also hit out at the union for “going around management” to obtain salary figures from the human resource department that were inaccurate, and for refusing to share with the company how its calculations showed the firm had not complied with the court order.

The argument got so heated at one point, with Mr Corke standing up to refute Mr Tay before the latter had finished speaking, that Justice Chan issued a sharp rebuke, saying: “Don’t interrupt.”

The justice threw out the union’s case after hearing arguments from both sides. He accepted the company had given the 10 workers pay increases of between 6.6 per cent and 100 per cent, “which is more than the quantum ordered by the court”.

“Therefore, to all intents and purposes, the company has complied with the court’s award on payment of increment to these employees,” he said.

The justice said it was “immaterial” that the company did not disclose the hikes at the March hearing, and “the logical response was for both parties to assess if the increase given was at least equivalent to that ordered by the court”.

The decision drew disappointment in the courtroom, where some 20 NTUC staff and unionists had turned up in support.

IAC rulings on disputes that are not resolved through mediation are final.

Said union leader Abdul Aziz Mohamed, a driver in the company: “I am disappointed. Now that the court has ruled, I will need to go back and explain to my colleagues.”
source: business.asiaone.com

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