Photo of Patrick Tay from CNA

Singapore’s only government-sanctioned union, the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC), said it is “concerned” with companies not paying retrenchment benefits or serving sufficient notice to workers because of the current recession. With last year’s retrenchment figures hitting a 6-year-high at 15,580, the Singapore government expects the same figure for 2016. However, in 2015, only 48 unionised companies conducted retrenchment in a fair and professional manner including serving early notices and paying retrenchment benefits. There are 14,000 unionised companies in Singapore.

NTUC’s assistant-general, West Coast GRC MP Patrick Tay, said that NTUC is helping with workers who were discriminated. Although the MP said that there are tripartite “guidelines”, he did not mention any penalties or legislation to deter employers and protect workers from any form of discrimination:

“For the unionised sector, the tripartite guidelines play a very important role. If the cases are being escalated – be it through the Ministry of Manpower or even to the industrial arbitration court – these guidelines will be highly persuasive in the course of representing workers and ensuring they get a good payout.”

For non-unionised companies, largely formed by contractors of low income workers, the MP passed the bucket to the Manpower Ministry saying that the Employment Act will take care of the retrenched workers. However according to the Manpower Ministry, the Employment Act makes no mention or provisions under retrenchment benefits:

“However, for the non-unionised sector, workers who fall within the ambit of the Employment Act can also file a grievance with the Ministry of Manpower. In the conciliation process, these tripartite guidelines can be used as a benchmark or a guide in resolving those disputes and grievances.”