SINGAPORE - Pay cuts, surprise poor performance ratings and forced exits are some of the "horror stories" labour MP Patrick Tay (West Coast) said vulnerable workers had shared with him in the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday (June 4) during the debate on the supplementary Fortitude Budget, he recounted reports of employers unilaterally reducing workers' hours and even their pay.
He has also heard of workers suddenly receiving poor performance ratings during this period, when in the past few years, their performance was satisfactory or better.
In other cases, the employee was given a new job scope that was very different from his previous work, or even excluded from important meetings and company events.
All these were done to expedite the worker's exit from the company, said Mr Tay, who is assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress.
Workers have told him about being summoned back to their workplaces by management, even though they were able to work from home during the circuit breaker.
In some instances, the workers discovered that even after they had been terminated, their employers continued to contribute to their Central Provident Fund (CPF), so as to keep receiving cash grants from the Jobs Support Scheme, which subsidises the wages of local employees.
"Most of these happen in many non-unionised companies," said Mr Tay. "With the unionised companies, we have a collective agreement as well as a lot of negotiation."
He called for such cases to be investigated, and said he was glad to hear Manpower Minister Josephine Teo speak about taking "resolute steps" to punish recalcitrant or errant employers where such cases are detected.
"I can't emphasise enough the importance of regular, open, transparent communication between employers and employees," he added.
"This is the best time to build up trust, not just with affected workers. Those who are not affected are actually looking at how their employer treats employees."
He praised new Budget measures, like the SGUnited traineeships, that help mid-career job seekers, who were already vulnerable before Covid-19 struck.
"Not all companies are laying off people," he said. "They are a small group."
He called on more employers to make use of the government support schemes to retain their workers. "I hope we can eradicate some of these horror stories, one by one."