SINGAPORE — A Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness released an interim report on Monday (13 Feb) containing 20 recommendations for anti-discrimination workplace legislation. These include stronger protections and a wider range of enforcement tools.

The committee is chaired by Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, labour chief Ng Chee Meng and the Singapore National Employers Federation’s (SNEF) president Robert Yap.

The recommendations serve as input for the government to enact the anti-discrimination workplace legislation next year, probably before the next general election, since many Singaporeans have been complaining about discrimination in jobs with companies favouring foreign applicants.

According to a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) survey, the proportion of job seekers who reported that they experienced discrimination fell from 43 per cent in 2018 to 25 per cent in 2021. But this drop could be due to the pandemic, which saw a manpower crunch due to the border restrictions.

“It’s important for us to send a strong signal that we have zero tolerance for any form of workplace discrimination,” Dr Tan said. However, the committee also recommended that companies with fewer than 25 employees should be exempted from the legislation for five years.

The committee co-chair and labour chief, Ng Chee Meng, who is the People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate rejected by Sengkang voters in the last General Election, said that National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is happy that the proposed law will be a voice for the workers. “We believe this will serve as an effective deterrent against any errant employers,” he added.

According to the interim report, the annual average of discrimination complaints was 312 between 2018 and 2021. Of these, 174 or 56 per cent were based on nationality.

The report said, “There have been complaints that locals have been discriminated against while foreigners have been preferred. While MOM has taken action against employers for breaches of the TGFEP and FCF, such an act of discrimination will now also be a breach of the new legislation and a greater range of remedies and sanctions can be applied.”

IT companies transfer staff from India to work in Singapore

Indeed, it has been reported that while local IT graduates are currently having a hard time finding tech jobs, engineers are constantly being transferred from India to work in Singapore.

A source in the IT company, Cognizant Singapore, has told TOC that a number of IT staff have been successfully transferred from India to work in the Singapore’s branch last year.

They were all given work passes by the MOM to work in Singapore. TOC emailed Cognizant last November for a response, but to date, there has been no reply.

Indian IT engineers and managers were said to have been transferred to Singapore to work on projects which Cognizant has secured from clients in Singapore.

Under the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), intra-corporate transferees can be transferred from one country to another and work in that country for up to as long as 8 years.

The source also told TOC that the majority of people in project teams are from India while locals and other nationalities constitute only a small minority. He commented that he is not impressed with the quality of those transferred from India to work here. In meetings, they tend to speak in Hindi among themselves, oblivious to the other non-Indian people inside the meeting, he added.

It’s not known why MOM continues to issue work passes for these foreign transferees to work in the company, considering that their proportion in the company based on the nationality criteria is overwhelming.
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