SINGAPORE: Singapore’s Manpower Ministry is looking into the possibility of setting up a body to deal with workers’ non—statutory concerns, like disputes over bonus payments or work benefits, like when to start a sabbatical, and whether the employee can go on flexible work arrangements.
Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan—Jin said such concerns can be dealt with, without having to go to the civil courts or the Industrial Arbitration Court.
Separately, NTUC Chief Lim Swee Say told Parliament that there has been an increase in the number of SMRT bus drivers from China joining the union.
In Parliament on Monday, Mr Tan set out in detail the circumstances surrounding the SMRT bus drivers’ illegal strike in November last year.
Assurance of aggrieved workers’ access to the Industrial Arbitration Court in the event of labour disputes was a topic raised in Parliament.
Mr Tan responded: "No one is denied that right to go through some of these processes. I am looking at as part of our improvement and strengthening of the Employment Act to see whether we would be able to establish a different body to deal with some of these non—statutory concerns and I would say this applies not just to low—wage workers, whether local or foreign, even for some of the junior PMEs level, there are concerns. Sometimes it is non—statutory. We are not always able to step in."
Members of Parliament also asked if special attention should be paid to essential services to ensure that labour relations in these enterprises do not break down, as they would adversely affect Singaporeans.
Mr Tan replied: "While we have seen the incidents through the SMRT strike of this possibility, it does not and I stress it is important not to generalise there is a high risk of this happening. There are reasons why this has taken place. In this case in terms of miscommunication, better management could have taken place."
Mr Tan added that SMRT could have better handled the matter by ensuring that the company’s decisions were properly explained to and accepted by the workers.
As for union membership amongst SMRT bus drivers from China, Mr Lim said about 75 per cent of the 400 drivers have signed up to be union members as of today, up from less than 5 per cent before the illegal strike.
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