Andrew Loh /
Mr Sitoh Yihpin has gone back on his promise, says the Singapore People’s Party (SPP). Mr Sitoh, the People’s Action Party Member of Parliament of Potong Pasir, had assured the SPP's Mrs Lina Chiam that he would retain 16 employees of the town council of the ward. But this is being disputed by Mr Sitoh who says that he has not reneged on his word.
After the May election results were announced, which saw Mr Sitoh beating Mrs Chiam by a mere 114 votes, Mrs Chiam had expressed concern for the town council staff's employment prospects. She had then asked Mr Sitoh for assurance that he will continue to employ them now that he has won the elections and would be running the town council.
However, 13 of the 16 employees were issued termination letters last week, while the other three were offered employment in Potong Pasir Town Council, according to news reports.
When asked by the media why he was not keeping most of the staff, Mr Sitoh explained that since the town council has engaged EM Services to manage the town, he “has to abide by EM Services' regulations.”
"It has its own way of doing things that is developed over the years,” he said, “which is why I adopt this system. My paramount interest is the Potong Pasir residents, so EM Services has to bring in its own people. I can't compromise on standards of services I deliver to residents."
The SPP is delivering a “request” letter to Mr Sitoh on 2 June to ask him to keep to his promise. In the letter, the party reminded him of what he had said to Mrs Chiam “in the morning of the day after General Elections":
“Since you [Mrs Chiam] have raised this issue to me personally, I will keep all the staff at the Town Council. I will honor my words.”
Referring to the new arrangement which the staff will have to undergo with EM Services, the SPP said, “Under this arrangement, if they were to re-apply for hiring under the EM Services company and be accepted, they shall be deployed to other town councils and their employment conditions shall be subjected to their new contract with EM Services.”
The SPP wants Mr Sitoh to honour his promise to hire and retain the staff at the Potong Pasir town council. “Terminating them and referring them to reapply to be hired under a different employer – EM Services – is not the same as the promise to keep them,” the SPP said.
The party also said that there were no reason given to the staff on why their services were being terminated. Some of the employees had been working at the town council for five to ten years.
“Even if you did choose to go back on your word and terminate them,” the SPP letter said, “there has been no offer of appropriate and adequate compensation in terms of severance or retrenchment package for them. We do not think this is a fair and equitable termination practice based on accepted industry and HR practice.”
The party asked Mr Sitoh to “reinstate all the staff back to the Potong Pasir Town Council or offer an appropriate retrenchment or severance.”
If re-employed under EM Services, these staff would have to undergo a six-month probation period and be subject to new contractual terms. Some of the council employees were concerned about this.
According to the Today newspaper, when asked about the probation period, Mr Sitoh said this was standard human resource policy for all EM Services staff. He added: "If they're good performers, what's the worry?"
You can read the SPP’s letter in full here.