By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the article “Job ads: What’s fair and what’s not” (Straits Times, Oct 19).
What are Acceptable Ads?
It states that “A list illustrating what is and isn’t acceptable in job advertisements was put up on the website of Singapore’s fair employment watchdog last week.
The Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (Tafep) said it did this to provide greater clarity to employers and help them comply with existing guidelines on fair employment.”
When I read the above, the first thought that came to my mind was – well, fine – we now have a guide with examples of what are fair or unfair job advertisements – probably in reaction to so many unfair employment ads exposed by social media recently.
It may be as if some people just woke up – as if we didn’t know that there have been unfair ads for so many years?
Why did it take so long for this awakening? – thanks to social media or the mainstream media?
Fair employment more important than fair ads?
But, don’t you find it kind of superficial to talk so much about fair employment ads – shouldn’t we be focusing on fair employment?
So, I went to the TAFEP web site to look at its latest annual review 2012.
Statistics in enforcement?
Arguably, in probably in any country, a good indicator of how effective fair employment is – may be to look at the statistics on enforcement.
I don’t seem to be able to find any statistics on how many employers have been punished, in the 36 page review.
All it says are 303 complaints, 1435 enquiries, 2,173 approaches, and “last year, TAFEP approached 100 employers on “nationality-related” (discrimination against Singaporeans?) allegations – In 2 cases, MOM issued the employers a warning”.
Only 2 employers got just a warning?
So, only 2 out of 100 got warning, but none were punished?
Actually, there is a photo of a newspaper article which said that “since TAFEP started in 2006, more than 400 employers have been hauled up to answer allegations of unfair employment practices … none of them have continued with any discriminatory practices since”.
Isn’t this like stating the obvious? What exactly were the punishments meted out and to how many employers, for the last year and since 2006?
In this connection, the Equal Opportunities Commission in Hong Kong had over 16,600 enquiries answered, over 900 complaints handled, about HK$9,980,000 secured in compensation for complainants, and a 72 per cent successful conciliation rate, in the last year.
And the punishment is … ?
As I understand it, the only punishment for discriminating against Singaporeans is to reduce or restrict an employer’s privilege to recruit foreign workers.
So, I guess most employers may know that if you don’t follow the guidelines, you have to be caught first and that is provided somebody complains.
And then of course – TAFEP will have to recommend to the MOM to take action – and you only have a 2 per cent chance of being issued with just a warning?
How many of the 100 employers last year did TAFEP recommend to MOM to take action against them – to end up with just 2 employers getting a warning?
And of course perhaps the worse punishment is that you cannot recruit foreign workers anymore for a certain time period, or less foreign workers.
Finally even if this were to happen, I guess maybe a few, a very few employers (can’t be zero as implied by the statistics given above right?) would not make a big deal about it and just focus on employing foreign spouses on LTVP with letter of consent (to work), foreign university interns, foreign students studying in Singapore, PRs, etc – which they still don’t have to employ any Singaporeans at all!
By now, you may have come to the realisation as I have – that TAFEP is just guidelines for employers.
It has no powers, as I understand it to take any punitive action against errant employers.
In other words, TAFEP in essence relies on the goodwill of employers to follow its guidelines.
Only over 2,000 employers signed pledge?
It congratulates itself for having gotten more than 2,000 employers to sign its pledge of fair employment practices.
But, as I believe – there are more than 100,000 employers?
Only 200,000 unique visitors in a year?
As to “In 2012, the web site continued to attract more than 200,000 unique visitors” – if this is for a year – it may indicate how little interest employers and workers alike may have on our much touted successful tripartite labour relations model?
The Hong Kong Equal Opportunities Commission has about 93,000 people visiting their web site per month on the average.
In this connection, for traffic comparison purposes, I understand that socio-political web sites like TR Emeritus, The Real Singapore and theonlinecitizen, get an average of as much as over 50,000 unique visitors per site in a day.
One big Shakespearean play?
After reading the above, don’t you get the feeling that its like one big Shakespearean play ?
Finally, it appears that almost all the people in TAFEP are from the Government, union movement or employers.
Don’t you think that it’s about time that we have some ordinary workers, NGOs and independent-minded Singaporeans to be represented in TAFEP?