Tripartite committee formed to ensure workplace fairness, says Manpower Minister Tan See Leng

The committee will examine if legislation is the best policy option to advance on the gains that Singapore has made in this area.
The committee will examine if legislation is the best policy option to advance on the gains that Singapore has made in this area.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - A tripartite committee has been set up to ensure workplace fairness, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng in Parliament on Monday (July 26).

He was responding to MPs who spoke on strengthening the Singaporean core in the workforce and ensuring workplace fairness.

The committee will examine if legislation is the best policy option to advance on the gains that Singapore has made in this area, he said.

"The Government, union and employer representatives will deliberate thoroughly whether legislation should be pursued, taking into consideration potential ramifications."

The committee will consult stakeholders, including unions and employers, and aims to complete its work by the first half of 2022.

It is co-chaired by Dr Tan, National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng and the Singapore National Employers Federation president Robert Yap.

Mr Patrick Tay (Pioneer), Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) and Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) on Monday called for legislation to tackle issues of discrimination in companies.

Dr Tan said: "Legislation could give us more enforcement powers against errant employers beyond suspending work pass privileges, and confer better protection on employees who whistle-blow.

"It also sends a clearer signal on what we, as a society, will not tolerate as bad behaviour on the part of employers."

But laws alone do not determine better employment outcomes, Dr Tan noted.

"On the one hand, legislation will provide a clear premise to publicise the names of companies found to have breached the law," he said.

"On the other hand, we should be mindful of unintended consequences. For example, if not properly designed, the legal framework could be overly onerous and inadvertently deter employers from setting up shop here and hiring the very groups we seek to protect."

Dr Tan also reiterated the importance of remaining open.

"The combination of skilled locals and a diversity of foreign expertise is a key competitive advantage for us in drawing many international companies here, creating more good jobs for Singaporeans," he said.

He noted that the Ministry of Manpower has worked for more than two decades, progressively stepping up efforts to tackle all types of discrimination.

"We want to work towards fairer and more progressive workplaces, while preserving our competitiveness," Dr Tan said.

"Legislation has its merits, but is not a silver bullet. We need a balanced suite of measures and to not be hampered by an overly rigid framework that hurts all parties involved," he said.

"Only then can we continue to give Singaporeans, the best chance to get ahead, and to secure their livelihoods."

Mr Ng responded to the announcement of the new effort in a Facebook post: "I hope that through this tripartite committee, we can provide better ways to protect Singaporean workers, and ensure that they can compete with our foreign talent, secure better wages, welfare and work prospects."