TL;DR – Hopefully they won’t be too busy.
I hate it when people owe me money and doesn’t pay even after I repeatedly chase them. Thankfully, I’ve never been in a position where I was in dire straits because someone didn’t return me the money they owe me. Not everyone is so lucky. There are some people who are owed money by their employers.
Some of these employers could have gone bust and are thus unable to pay the salaries of their employees. Those, I think, still not that bad. But there are those employers who, for whatever reasons, are unwilling to pay the salaries of their staff. They think that their employees won’t take them to court because of the legal fees and all the hassle.
Those employers are contemptible. If I had my way, the fleas of a thousand camels would infest their crotches and their arms too short to scratch. Unfortunately, no amount of cursing by me would punish such errant employers nor help those affected employees. Thankfully, the government has put in new measures to resolve such salary-related disputes.
Cheaper, better, faster way of resolving disputes
These measures include the establishment of the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT) at the State Courts, and the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM). The ECT is designed to provide a speedy, low-cost forum for parties to resolve their employment disputes. It will be judge-led, with no lawyers involved. It will be, according to Minister Lim Swee Say, a “cheaper, better, faster” way to resolve disputes than to going to civil court.
To make the whole process even simpler, employees can go for mediation at the TADM before going to the ECT. It costs as little as $10 to take the case to TADM for mediation. The claim limit is $20,000 for non-union members. The claim limit for union members is $30,000.
That’s not all the extra help that union members are getting. Union members will benefit from NTUC’s expertise and close support throughout the entire process. NTUC will help members to touch base and follow-up with their employers to resolve all workplace issues.
As Labour Chief Chan Chun Sing said,
Labour Movement will complement this initiative by providing immediate assistance on workplace-related issues to workers who are part of our U Network when they walk in to TADM. These are our union members, and members who are part of our U Associates, U PME, U SME and U FSE. Our union members will be able to tap on NTUC’s expertise and close support throughout the entire process of dispute resolution. Additionally, unions members will be eligible for a higher claim amount through the Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) and the Tripartite Mediation Framework.
Apart from visiting TADM, they can also approach their union, call NTUC hotline or log their cases online. The rest of our U Network will enjoy free basic advisory services when they walk in. Services such as protection and representation have been Labour Movement’s core area of work since early days.
We hope to continue to stay relevant so that we can serve our union members well, at the same time, provide value-added services to others who are now part of our expanding network.
Here’s a flowchart that I’ve lifted from TADM’s website on how a typical mediation process looks like for salary-related claims. You might want to know that currently, nine out of 10 such cases are resolved at mediation stage.
Some devious employers may still be thinking to themselves, “It’s OK… such dispute mechanisms hor, only for those covered under the Employment Act. Means those expensive Professionals, Managers, Executives (PMEs) can’t use those mechanisms. I can still get away with not paying their salaries!”
Any employers who think that way would quickly find that they are wrong. The TADM goes beyond those who are covered under the Employment Act. Almost all employees, especially PMEs, can resolve salary claims at TADM. And that’s not the only way that the TADM is improving protection and support for employees when it comes to disputes with employers.
The TADM will also cover more employment issues, beyond salary claims. But, in my opinion, the best part about the TADM is that it provides more support beyond just resolving disputes. It will work with partner agencies to provide more holistic support to employees.
For instance, someone seeking help from the TADM to resolve a dispute could be referred to the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to get help in securing a new job. It helps that one of the two TADM centres is in the e2i building. Low income workers can get even more help. They may be referred to a Social Service Office (SSO) for social assistance. They may also get financial relief of up to $1,000 or 1 month of their gross salary from MOM’s Short-Term Relief Fund.
Hopefully TADM and ECT won’t be too busy
If all employers treat employees fairly, then the TADM and ECT would essentially have nothing to do. We know that this ideal world doesn’t exist. In reality, there will probably be more than enough work to keep the TADM and ECT busy. And I believe that the TADM and ECT are great initiatives that will contribute to fair and progressive workplaces in Singapore.