Subscriber updates 4-10 August 2020

As the country celebrates its 55th birthday, the perennial bugbear this week is fixated on labour issues. News broke this week about how bus drivers who are taking court action over allegations that SBS Transit has breached several provisions under the Employment Act (EA) — the statutory legislation upon which the terms and conditions pertaining to their working hours and overtime were based on have been intimidated and bullied.

Given that this lawsuit is seen as a David and Goliath battle between the little man and a huge big corporation with the seeming Government’s lawyer of choice, Davinder Singh acting for them, this case has attracted a significant amount of public scrunity. With human rights lawyer, M Ravi championing the bus drivers, pitted against Singh who has many a time bankrupted PAP foes through defamation suits, it is safe to say that many fair minded members of the public will be rooting for the underdog.

This matter in isolation might have faded out had there not also been news about the hiring policies of certain other big corporations in Singapore. This week a bank executive at an international bank publicly recounted that her trading floor “is crowded with employees from a particular Asian country…including their family members” which led netizens to question if our current hiring policies enable international corporations to discriminate against Singaporeans?

Added to this, there have been reports that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has announced that another 47 employers have been added to the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watchlist for suspected discriminatory hiring practices in their workforce profile with the MOM saying that it would be putting those on the list “to closer scrutiny to ensure that there is no nationality bias against locals, which is unacceptable and not in line with fair, merit-based hiring,”

The MOM also announced that it would further investigate another 240 firms which have been identified through data analytics for possible pre-selection of foreigners or not adhering to the spirit of the job advertising requirement under the FCF. How does this stack up against the hiring policies of the particular bank stated above? Is the FCF fit for purpose?

Netizens have also pointed out that foreign PMETs taking up jobs that locals can do is not a new issue which begs the question: Is the MOM doing its job?

To make matters worse, Eagle Services Asia, a joint venture between SIA Engineering and American aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney announced a far reaching retrenchment exercise which was apparently not above board. So much so that NTUC’s secretary-general, Ng Chee Meng, who recently loss out in Sengkang GRC under the PAP’s ticket got personally involved in trying to stop the unfair retrenchment practices by Eagle Services in a bid to protect workers.  So concerned he was  of the actions of Eagle Services, that he even sanctioned preparations for legal industrial action despite Singapore’s long established reputation of having a zero tolerance policy towards any form of strikes. Is the government finally waking up to workers’ rights? Or is this just because of the current climate where labour issues is such a political hot potato?

Even as the dust begins to settle after general election 2020, it has also come to light that there have been at least 10 violations of general election rules that the Elections Department (ELD) has yet to deal with. While the ELD, which is tasked with overseeing the procedures of election in the country, has addressed several issues this GE2020 from police reports made against Worker’s Party (WP) MP of Sengkang GRC Raeesah Khan over alleged racially charged comments from two years ago to a campaign video violating regulations by People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Ong Ye Kung as well as several instances of damaged campaign posters, it has seemingly remained silent  on many other instances of regulation violation such as a two and a half minute political campaign video introducing PAP MP’s Sun Xueling which included multiple scenes of children who were of preschool and primary school age running into her outstretched arms.

Community

Singapore has recorded 22,403 dengue cases as of Wednesday (5 Aug), a new high for any single year in Singapore’s history, according to the National Environmental Agency. According to reports, the number of cases for 2020 has far exceeded the previous high of 22,170 cases recorded in the year of 2013 within seven months.

The daughter of the late Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Weiling has informed Singaporeans via Facebook that she has been diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare neurodegenerative disorder that shares similar symptoms with Parkinson’s disease.

Singapore celebrated its 55th birthday in a slightly different way this year. Instead of a huge parade, there was a scaled down parade. In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers were given a salute in tribute to the ongoing sacrifices they continue to make.

In addition to a scaled down parade, fireworks were also launched at ten locations islandwide as the finale of the National Day Parade (NDP) in a bid to lessen crowds

Overseas

The new national security laws in Hong Kong continues to claim victims  as news broke that media mogul Jimmy Lai, one of Hong Kong’s most vocal critics of Beijing has been arrested under the controversial and repressive new laws. This arrest comes as twenty-five Hong Kong democracy activists including the  prominent activist Joshua Wong, were charged for taking part in a banned June candlelight vigil marking the anniversary of China’s 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

As relations between China and the US continue to disintegrate, US cabinet member and Health Secretary Alex Azar has made an official visit to Taipei. This visit is significant as it is the highest level visit from the United States since it switched diplomatic recognition from the island to China in 1979. In a move that is sure to anger Beijing, Azar has heaped praise on Taiwan’s democracy and its success in battling the coronavirus as he met .

A massive explosion that rocked the city of Beirut has seen widespread criticism on government corruption In Lebanon. Under pressure, the government of Lebanon has given an “investigative committee” four days to determine responsibility for those responsible as international aid pours in.

News has emerged that the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 700,000 people worldwide since it first emerged in China in December, according to an AFP tally which states that a total of 700489 deaths have been recorded

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