On the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) blog, Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin has said that the MOM is neither pro-employer nor pro-worker but they seek to strike a balance between the two. I know Mr. Tan has not been the MOM minster for very long but if this is truly what he thinks, then it would kind of explain why Singapore is having such a spate of industrial disputes.
Basically Mr. Tan has no idea what he is saying because Singapore is as pro-employer as you can get in the world.
That is just a simple fact accepted by every company that comes to invest in Singapore. Hell, it's something we winked at when we pitch our country as an investment destination to them. Take the latest case of employer/worker dispute yesterday at Yishun.
28 Indian and Chinese construction workers in Yishun stopped work on Tuesday to demand payment of their salaries. The 28 workers were not paid their November salary and are owed a range of between S$2,400 to S$5,600 in salaries. They decided to stop work because their special passes (S-Pass) to stay in Singapore are valid only until the 26th of December so if they do not get their salary by then, they will be deported out of the country.
Since the work stoppage, the MOM had to step in and 25 of the workers had since been paid with the other 3 being paid on the following day. What does this tells you? This tell you that the company had the ability to pay these workers in the first place! They had the ability to pay the workers but they did not because they thought they could get away with not paying. The company was not totally wrong.
Once the S-pass are invalid, the Singapore government will deport the workers and the company will not need to pay a cent on the wages of these workers for 2 months (November and December)! To say that this sort of pay dispute, no pay when your contact is also up, is not unusual is an understatement. The fact that the company thought they could get away with it should tell Mr. Tan how lopsided the Singapore government has been in pay disputes so far. I mean people from China and India laughed at the NTUC and refused to go there because they believe (rightly) the union is useless.
I mean in this case, the workers were told the company has no money to pay them and they had actually went to the MOM for help but were told if the company doesn't want to pay us, there is nothing the MOM could do. Both statements given to the workers were wrong. The company had money to pay and the MOM could pressure the company to pay. Neither choose to do so before the case hit the media.
That Mr. Tan is how pro-employer Singapore is.