Leong Sze Hian, President of Maruah, a Singapore human rights NGO, has taken issue with a statement from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) as well as with Singapore’s labor laws themselves.
In particular, Mr. Leong asks the question, “How many of the 791,900 employed residents with gross monthly income less than $2,500, are PMETs?” as such a low monthly salary may reflect a failure not only in labor policy, but of the labor movement itself to fight for the rights of workers.
The context of this questioning is the MOM’s reply to two letters published by the Straits Times written concerning overtime pay, by Cheng Choon Fei on June 23rd, and Tan Kar Quan on June 27th. Mr. Cheng’s letter was about the deceitful practices used by employers to avoid paying overtime pay, while Mr. Tan’s letter pointed out that payment for overtime work is connected to one’s basic salary, and not to his or her job title.
The MOM replied to the two letters to clarify several salient points concerning overtime pay:
One, that two criteria must be met for employees to claim overtime pay—that the employee should not be a manager or executive, and that he or she should receive $2500 or less if he or she is a non-workman, or $4,500 or less if he or she is a workman.
Two, the MOM also said that overtime pay should be at least 1.5 times an employee’s basic rate, and that time off cannot compensate for overtime work.
The MOM’s letter also assured readers that they take misclassification of employees in order to avoid overtime pay seriously, with penalties meted out to violating employers. However, it also said that the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) had received a relatively small number (50) of complaints of such incidents. The MOM and TADM found that in 90 per cent of these complaints had a legal basis, and that errant employers were made to compensate these employees.
Mr. Leong asks, “how many of the employers were penalised and what were the penalties?”
He also asks, “Where is the deterrent if as it would appear from the subject reply – the employers were only ordered “to make due compensation”, but were not penalised?”
Furthermore, Mr. Leong also pointed out MP Patrick Tay’s assertion that 30,000 workers in the country are considered professionals, managers and executives (PME’s), but are earning only $2,500, which led up to Mr. Leong’s question about how many of the nearly eight hundred thousand employed residents who have a gross monthly income of $2,500 are actually professionals, management and executives?
Mr. Leong ended his article with speculation about the failure not only of labor policies but the labor movement itself. “So, a primary contributing factor to so many low-pay PMET’s maybe our labour policies which arguably, may mean that the labour movement may have failed to fight for our worker’s rights.”