Protect all workers against overwork

For decades, the push to redefine our labour force as a productive and highly skilled one has led to an increase in the number of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) in Singapore.

As a member of this PME category, I believe the review of the Employment Act - the first in six years - by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is long overdue (Review seeks to widen Employment Act coverage; Jan 19).

I support greater assistance for the lower-skilled. However, there are also certain rights that are inalienable to the collective labour force, regardless of salary or the categories that we are slotted into.

All employees deserve the right to be protected against overwork or, worse, overwork without fair entitlements.

As the MOM begins to recognise that PMEs earning more than $4,500 a month are also entitled to basic rights, the issue of overtime pay should be carefully studied as well.

Currently, the Employment Act protects certain groups of employees from putting in more than 72 overtime hours a month, and provides entitlements to overtime pay.

Aren't PMEs as human as the workers who fall within these groups? Shouldn't we be accorded the same rights?

I have worked for a few companies across different industries. It is not uncommon to see PMEs working 15-hour days for six days a week.

The same protection against gross overtime should be extended to the whole labour force.

We should not take the gumption and resilience displayed by the Singapore workforce for granted and allow situations to morph into the "karoshi" - or death by overwork - phenomenon we often read about in other countries.

Arthur Koh Wei Kiat

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2018, with the headline 'Protect all workers against overwork'. Print Edition | Subscribe