Singapore Employment Act review: Unions seek higher salary limit

Singapore's National Trades Union Congress would like to see the Act be expanded to include more workers.

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower is seeking public feedback as part of its review process of the Employment Act.

This is the first time since 2012 that the government is conducting a review of the Act.

Patrick Tay, the assistant secretary-general of Singapore’s National Trades Union Congress, in a blog post, shared his recommendations on behalf of the labour movement.

In what he calls the three “E”s, Tay wrote that the unions would like to see:

1.       An expansion of the scope of the Act to cover Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs) beyond the current S$4,500 limit

2.       Extension of the Part IV protection to cover non-workman beyond the current S$2,500 limit for overtime hours

3.       Enhancements to the existing dispute resolution framework

To the first point, Tay wrote that despite amendments in 2014, there have been many PMEs who the various help centres have been unable to assist due to the current salary ceiling of S$4,500, as under Section 14 of the Act.

He added: “Despite the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act in April 2015 to allow collective representation of PMEs by all unions, in some of our unionised companies, management have occasionally attempted to use this ‘$4,500 limit’ in the Employment Act as a proxy to suggest that the union cannot expand its scope of representation beyond those earning more than this sum. Fortunately, such cases are not aplenty.”

Furthermore, in April last year, two dispute channels – the Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) and Tripartite Alliance for Disputes Management (TADM) – were created to help PMEs resolve their employment disputes.

However, the ECT currently only hears salary-related disputes, and Tay writes that it is “imperative” that the ECT be expanded to cover all other unfair and wrongful dismissal cases.

Currently, Part IV of the Employment Act also states that only non-workman (workman are manual labourers)  earning a basic salary of less than S$2,500 and workman earning not more than S$4,500 are entitled to overtime payments.

Tay suggests a need to review the limits accordingly to “keep pace with rising median wages”.

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