You probably have heard of the raging conversations surrounding foreign talent, and discrimination against Singaporeans over the years. But did you know that the tripartite partners have also been relentless in their push to ensure Singaporean workers are treated fairly? Of course, there continue to be recalcitrant companies with unfair HR practices, so the work goes on. More steps need to be taken to ensure fairness in hiring and to protect Singaporean workers. As NTUC Secretary-General, Ng Chee Meng shared in a recent Facebook post, the anxieties felt by our Singaporean workers are real.
In Parliament on 26 July, several MPs also reiterated calls for legislation where needed to protect Singaporean workers.
What suggestions were made?
The NTUC-PME Taskforce has engaged more than 9,000 PMEs in the last 6 months. While the Government had implemented several changes to the foreign manpower policies over the past years, some PMEs feel that the policy tweaks are insufficient. There are still companies that continue to engage in unacceptable practices and discrimination against Singaporean workers. Labour MP Patrick Tay suggested that fair hiring practices can be enhanced by improving companies’ human resources standards while strengthening enforcement. Stiffer penalties on errant companies with discriminatory hiring practices should be imposed. These sentiments were similarly shared by NTUC Deputy Secretary-General Chee Hong Tat at a recent event by Human Capital Singapore.
“Besides ground sentiments of intense competition from the influx of foreign PMEs, I have a compendium of anecdotes of unfair employment practices by employers who favour hiring foreigners and discriminating against our locals.”
Tackle Discrimination Against Singaporean Jobseekers
Heard of the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF)? It took effect in 2014 and is meant to tackle firms that hire foreigners without fairly considering Singaporean applicants.
The FCF has since been expanded to include discriminatory hiring based on age, gender, race and mental health. Now, all employers are expected to comply, and not discriminate on characteristics unrelated to the job. In his speech, however, Patrick Tay also shared findings that some PMEs view the FCF job advertisement requirement as “mere window dressing” as employers may already have a foreign candidate in mind when they post their job advertisements. Indeed, there have been anecdotes of employers who seem to favour hiring foreigners for one reason or another.
Through the Labour Movement’s years of lobbying and advocating for a stronger Singaporean Core, many measures have been put in place to better protect our Singaporean PMEs. In a push for all PMEs to be covered and protected by the Employment Act, Patrick’s lobbying for a review of the Act saw the salary cap removed. He has been lobbying to tighten the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) to ensure workplaces are fair and progressive and to strongly deter unfair hiring practices. Over the years, he has also called on the authorities to disclose the names of companies put on a watch list for biased hiring, to improve transparency and send a strong signal that such behaviour must stop. Patrick has also pushed for stronger enforcement against employers who discriminate against Singaporean PMEs.
More Need to be Done Nevertheless
While the Government had implemented several changes to the foreign manpower policies over the past years, Patrick acknowledged that more need to be done. The work goes on. Through engagement sessions, PMEs have also shared with him that there is currently no proper framework for the transfer of knowledge for roles for which employers claim there are skills shortages.
“Our local PMEs are unhappy when many of the roles which they can undertake and do are instead being done by foreign PMEs.”
Under the current employment climate, the work is even more critical. The Labour Movement is pushing to further develop Singaporeans’ capabilities and protect them from unfair discrimination. The Labour Movement has relentlessly advocated for a strong Singaporean Core and will continue the fight to ensure that there must be zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind at the workplace.
Meanwhile, members of the public can report specific instances of discriminatory behaviour online for investigation. MOM and TAFEP take all complaints seriously and will keep the identity of whistleblowers confidential.