Patrick has been persistent and vocal in the forefront fighting for a strong Singaporean core since 2011.
As co-chair of the NTUC-SNEF PME Taskforce, he has heard many concerns from fellow PMEs through more than 15 focus group sessions involving more than 8000 PMEs . Job security is one of the concerns. Another is the intense competition from the influx of foreign manpower. Many had shared with him anecdotes of unfair employment practices by employers who favour hiring foreigners and discriminate against our locals.
PMEs he spoke to acknowledged the need for FTAs and foreign manpower in this age of globalisation, global competition and economic survival and success.
“But we must recognise the need to support our local workforce’s aspiration and to address their concerns and anxieties.”
– Patrick Tay –
Complementarity, not direct competition
Patrick stressed that ‘the principle of complementarity and not direct competition is an important concept which we need to continue to embrace and strengthen’.
“The role of foreign manpower is to complement and enhance the capabilities of the local workforce and not to replace or displace it.”
He emphasised that we should not allow the import of non-specialised and non-highly skilled foreign manpower to compete against Singaporeans for well paying jobs which many Singaporeans can do.
“In other words, we will need to strike a balance between being open and having a level playing field for our locals with fair opportunities and fair treatment,” Patrick said. He acknowledge that this balance is not easy to achieve. It is an evolving process, he said.
Patrick has been lobbying and advocating for a strong Singaporean core since 2011, pushing for stronger enforcement against employers who discriminate against or unfairly treat Singaporean PMEs.
The Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) and the National Jobs Bank came our of his lobbying for labour market testing and a ‘Singaporean First’ approach in hiring. His push for a review of the Employment Act saw the salary cap removed so that all PMEs are covered and protected by the Act.
He has also pushed for other policy measures from Employment Pass qualifying salaries to regular tightening of FCF after its launch, and called on MOM to wield a heavy hand on recalcitrant companies including prosecution.
“We even set up the Employment Claims Tribunal, TAFEP (Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment) and TADM (Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management) and issued many tripartite advisories, standards, and guidelines to strengthen the Singaporean Core.”
Patrick’s proposals to address fairness and localisation of PME jobs
In his speech in Parliament on 6 July during the debate on the ministerial statements by Ministers Ong Ye Kung and Dr Tan See Leng, Patrick said, “I am heartened that in my past 10 years of lobbying and advocating for a stronger Singaporean core, many of these measures have been put in place by Ministry of Manpower, with support of our tripartite partners and other economic agencies such as MAS and EDB to better support and protect our Singaporean workforce and provide them with a fair and level playing field in the job market.”
But more needs to be done, Patrick added. Patrick made the following calls in his speech in Parliament:
1. Stronger enforcement to enhance fair hiring practices;
2. Stiffer penalties for errant companies with discriminatory hiring practices;
3. Publication of a watchlist of errant employers as a deterrence through potential reputational loss;
4. More teeth and bite to be given to TAFEP (Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices) through expanded powers of investigation, enforcement, and even mete out punishment;
5. Level the playing field for local PMEs by enhancing the EP application review process to move beyond looking at the individual applicant’s educational qualification and salary and pay close watch to sectors with a particular imbalance.
6. Ensure that locals have fair access to PME roles and progression opportunities to improve localisation of jobs in high growth sector.
Mandatory skills and knowledge transfer within a stipulated, agreed time
Patrick said, “As I have lobbied before in the house, it is imperative that we ensure concerted, structured, institutionalised, and mandatory skills and knowledge transfer from these foreign PMEs to our local PMEs within a stipulated and agreed time frame as employers bring in foreign PMEs to fill skills or knowledge gaps in their current workforce.
This will help to develop a pipeline of local talent. At the same time, we will need to build our leadership bench strength to ensure that Singaporeans can benefit and take up leadership roles in multinational companies that we bring into Singapore.”
To sum up: it’s a treadmill journey, says Patrick
“We need to constantly watch our step, keep pace, and stay in touch with the pulse. Pay close watch of economic competition and competitors, keep pace with the changing demographic profile and the future of work, and stay in touch with the pulse and heartbeat of Singaporeans, their stresses, aspirations, interests and well-being because every worker matters.”
You can read Patrick Tay’s speech here: