In a recent parliamentary session, Tay, Assistant Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) filed an adjournment motion on the issue of discrimination at workplace. This brought attention to the state of foreign manpower policies, and insufficiency of legislations and framework for local PMEs (Professionals, managers and executives) in the local job market. Addressing the motion put forth, Tan See Leng, Manpower & Labor Minister suggested forming a Tripartite Committee to solve the issue at hand about workplace discrimination and foreign manpower policies.
Workplace discrimination and Foreign manpower policies
The Singapore Government's Foreign Manpower Policy was implemented with a balanced approach to maintain a healthy mix between foreign workers and local PMEs. However, despite the number of policies and legislations implemented by the Government, a majority of Singaporean PMEs find the legislative framework insufficient and improper as regards workplace discrimination, job security and employability,
Local Singaporean manpower, in fact, had a whole host of issues, including but not limited to: absence of proper legislation to cater knowledge transfer skill shortage, and unfair labor market hiring practices temporary suspension, penalties and fines, lack of balance between foreign and local man force, and consequent discrimination.
According to the Fair Consideration Framework, employers are mandated to post job opening advertisements for the locals. Yet, local employees observe that various companies do not follow the fair policy implementation and instead use ads just for the 'sake of it', having a pre-chosen foreign employee for the required opening. Window dressing is what they called it.
Certain spokespersons also spoke about age, gender and racial discrimination, and stressed that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) should be given 'the powers to exercise a major suit'.
Tay, concerned about the Local Singaporean workers, expressed the need for a proper, fair and strong policy framework to strengthen Singapore's core.
Suggestions to address the issue of discrimination at workplace
The Ministry of Manpower plans on reviewing the existing laws and legislations along with providing enforcement, investigative and penal powers to fortify the TAFEP. The idea behind stern legislation is to alert employers to stop the use of discriminatory practices as it has penal consequences. MOM further claimed that it will ensure stricter penalties on every form of discriminatory practice including on the basis of sex, age, race, religion and disabilities.
Tay's proposal brings into focus any company's hiring norms, foreign-local diversity ratio, apart from merely factoring in qualifications, experience and salary perspectives. It will provide equal access to PMEs, maintain foreign-local diversity ratio as well as ensure career progression for local workers.
Given the fact that foreign companies may be reluctant to do business in Singapore if the local legislations and policies are difficult, the Government is trying to bring about a balance of foreign and local sentiments and opportunities available to all.