Sunday, 1 October 2023

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Foreign workers: Complain to union?

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “MOM releases guidelines on job flexibility scheme” (Channel NewsAsia, Jun 25).

Complain to your boss?

It states that “MOM said employees who believe that their employers have not met standards of the guiding principles should first seek recourse through channels within the employer’s business.

Complain to union?

If this is not resolved, employees should follow up with their union. Foreign employees may contact the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC).

MOM said it reserves the right to curb work pass privileges against companies in extreme cases of non-compliance with the guiding principles.”

According to some of my friends who have been volunteers helping migrant workers for many years – “this one sounds very nice, but in reality – if you a  migrant worker who is being treated unfairly by your employer – if you try to follow the official advice given to you – you sure kena jialat lah”.

Foreign workers know guiding principles?

“Employees who believe that their employers have not met standards of the guiding principles  should first seek recourse through channels within the employer’s business”

–  as one of my friends said – this one is really laughable – you go ask any worker worker whether they know the MOM or Tripartite guiding principles and you may most if not all the time get a reaction like “gong si mi”?

So, if hardly any of them know about the guiding principles – less a working detailed knowledge of what it means to them – how do you reasonably expect them to “should first seek recourse through channels within the employer’s business”?

Complain, may lose job?

As one of my friends said – likely the employer (and your fellow work permit workers and colleagues) may advice you – don’t try to be funny and complain – your contract may be terminated and you may be sent home – then what happens to the $9,000 that you paid to the employment agent  (some of which may have gone into some Singaporeans’ pocket)  in order to be able to come to Singapore! – Liao lui and bo kang jo leow!

How many are union members?

Well, let’s say you have a gung ho foreign work permit worker who is as one of my friends said is “naive” enough to actually “If this is not resolved, employees should follow up with their union” – how many work permit holders are union members? What percentage of work permit holders are union workers?

This is one statistic I really salivate to know.

What percentage of all union members are work permit workers?

How many and what percentage of work permit holders work in unionised companies?

Crane and bus drivers?

As one of my friends said – after the “climb on top of crane workers” (who did go to complain to the MOM) and “bus drivers strike” (who were not union members and as I understand it all the bus workers in the company then did not have a collective agreement) incidents – you think foreign workers will still dare to complain!

HOME & TWC2 don’t exist?

As to “Foreign employees may contact the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC)” – this is actually a “copy and paste” from the MOM’s press release FAQ.

As one of my friends said – eh! how come never mention HOME or TWC2 – they have been helping migrant workers for a very very long time, before the MWC was set up in 2009, and arguably help more of them, and also fighting and voicing out more on their plight.

Conflict of interest?

Since the MWC is a bipartite initiative of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers’ Federation (SNEF (presumably funded by them too – is it?) – isn’t there an inherent conflict of interest or bias? When you fight for workers’ rights and espouse their plight – wouldn’t it naturally be against the interests of employers, unions (whose main job at least in the Singapore context seems to be maintaining good and harmonious labour relations and environment – tripartite works very well, blah blah blah)?

Not to mention that MOM may have an interest in having a good record and perception of good labour relations, as well as the song that tripartism is best, and has worked best for Singapore?

In this regard, it is (just as)  puzzling just like “At the time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the report “puzzling” as it did not satisfactorily explain how it had arrived at its conclusion”.

As one of my friends said – I can’t wait to hear a satisfactory explanation as to why only MWC is mentioned?

As one of my friends said – aiyah, this one another pot calling the kettle black type of tactics lah!

Pot calling the kettle black?

Let me (one of my friends said)  give you one classic example : –

The boss of a company asked his staff to review whether the CEO and Board had done anything wrong or not.

The staff puts together a team of his colleagues who after taking a very long time (actually the deadline was extended by 1 month and 22 days from the original 1 to 2 months) writes a very long report.

The report concludes that actually nobody had done anything wrong.

Just when everybody thought that everything is OK since the report said everything is OK – The CEO comes out lambasting one of the parties involved for overpaying his relative to overcharge customers (conflict of interest).

The CEO’s brother also joins in to lambast the other party. The CEO’s brother’s company charges its customers more than the other party, and is actually losing money (deficit for the year and accumulated deficit), whereas the other party is making money (surplus for the year and accumulated surplus).

Last year, both the CEO and his brother’s companies  increased their charges to their customers, whereas the other party reduced its charges to its customers in 2011 after a takeover of some of the CEO’s and his brother’s companies’  former customers.

All the customers are now very confused because if your staff said in its very very long report that everything is OK – how come the CEO can come up with so many things about the other party that is not OK?

Was the staff who did the “everything OK” report incompetent because how come his CEO can find out so many wrong things about the other party that is not OK – when the staff’s report said everything is OK?

Will the staff get a pay cut for not doing his job (sloppy job)?

Will the CEO get a pay rise for having to do his subordinate’s job – which was done poorly?

Uniquely Singapore!

“Non-binding” guiding principles?

Anyway, let me get back to the work permit holders – With regard to “MOM said it reserves the right to curb work pass privileges against companies in extreme cases of non-compliance with the guiding principles” – pray tell us how many companies have ever been penalised (curb work pass privilege – which is arguably a very mild form of deterent – because if have some restriction on work permit, can always try to employ more S-pass, employment pass, LTVP-plus letter of consent foreign spouses, foreign university interns, PRs, etc) for “‘extreme’ cases of non-compliance with the guiding principles (not for other breaches hor – just stick to non-compliance of the “guiding principles” please)?

Since “The non-binding guidelines, which contain mostly dos and don’ts” (“Straits Times, Jun 25) are “non-binding” – how does one catch  ”‘extreme’ cases of non-compliance with the (non-binding) guiding principles”?

How many have been caught and punished so far?


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