SINGAPORE: Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan—Jin has said the government’s basic philosophy is to let remuneration be set according to market principles.
He was replying to questions in Parliament on Monday concerning the illegal strike by drivers from China of bus operator SMRT last year, over pay grievances.
Mr Tan said the workers were aware that they were not entitled to salary increments in their contracts when they signed on for the job.
He said employers are free to determine how much they are willing to pay for a particular job.
In the same vein, workers are also free to decide if employment terms on offer suit their needs.
Nonetheless, he said the incident was a "wake—up call" and that his ministry will explore more proactive measures to address the complaints of workers from essential services sectors.
Mr Tan said, "There are many reasons why employment—related grievances may arise in workplaces. It is really not uncommon for a workforce of three million. Some relate to breaches of employers’ statutory obligations, while others relate to contractual disputes. Yet others relate to non—contractual issues such as disagreements over the level of employment benefits or the conditions of work.
"And it is not always very clear whether the disagreements arise from unacceptable employment conditions or from the unreasonable demands of the workers themselves. I think we often hear of stories from actually both sides of the coin. But regardless of their nature, if these grievances are not properly addressed and they are allowed to fester, it could eventually lead to undesirable consequences, as in the case of the SMRT incident."
The Manpower Ministry is now exploring the possibility of setting up a different body to deal with the non—statutory concerns of workers.
Mr Tan said this separate body can deal with such concerns without the worker having to go to the civil courts or the Industrial Arbitration Court.
He said this applies not just to low—wage workers but to junior professionals, managers or executives, local or foreign.
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