Sunday, 2 April 2017

More workers in disputes to get help; Launch of Employment Claims Tribunals and Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management

Two new offices to help workers resolve disputes
Those not covered under Employment Act will also receive assistance now
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 1 Apr 2017

More workers can receive help in resolving employment-related disputes like owed wages from today, as two offices that tackle such issues begin operations.

The Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) will conduct mediation for salary-related claims. Should mediation fail, the claims will be heard by the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT).

The two offices will cover about 90 per cent of the 3.67 million people in the workforce.

Previously, only workers covered under the Employment Act could take their salary claims to the Manpower Ministry (MOM). Managers and executives earning a basic salary of more than $4,500 a month were excluded, and had to take their cases to the civil courts.

There is no salary cap on workers seeking help from the TADM, which can also provide advice and mediation for other employment issues not covered by employment laws.

Launching the initiative yesterday at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability (DNI), Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said it will provide a "cheaper, better, faster way" to resolve disputes compared with going to the civil courts.

Both TADM and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) will now come under a new company called Tripartite Alliance Limited, whose board is chaired by former Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) president Stephen Lee.

Through this company, the Government, unions and employers will pool resources and expertise to better help workers, said Mr Lim.

In starting the company, the three sides have put their money where their mouth is and showed their commitment to working together, he added.

The company plans to tackle workplace safety and health next.

TADM services for Singaporeans and permanent residents will be located at DNI in Jurong, while foreign workers can go to the MOM Services Centre in Bendemeer.

Announced last year, the TADM has a claim limit of $20,000, or $30,000 for union members.

Tripartite effort 'shows commitment to working together'

Mediation for salary claims is compulsory, and voluntary for other types of disputes. Claims must be filed within a year of a dispute, or within six months of an employee leaving a company.

MOM said more than nine in 10 salary claims are currently resolved through mediation by the ministry or via rulings by the Labour Court.

There is a $10 fee to register claims of below $10,000, and a $20 fee for higher claims. These will be waived for low-wage workers.

Singaporean and PR low-wage workers who are owed wages by employers that have gone bust can get financial aid of one month's salary, capped at $1,000, under MOM's new Short-Term Relief Fund.

The National Trades Union Congress will have officers at TADM to support members of its U Network of unions and associated organisations.

U Network members will not have to make an appointment to see a TADM officer.

Union members will also have their fees waived and can be accompanied by a union representative during mediation at TADM.

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing said NTUC has a long history of manging disputes and working with tripartite partners, adding that it hopes to share some of its experiences through the new set-up.

Meanwhile, the Employment Claims Tribunals will provide a speedy, low-cost way for people to resolve salary-related disputes, similar to the Small Claims Tribunals.

Set up by the State Courts, they will have simplified procedures and be led by a judge, with no lawyers involved.

They can hear claims for legal entitlements like unpaid salaries, as well as contractual claims like retrenchment benefits.

The claim amount is capped at $20,000, or $30,000 if the unions have helped to mediate the dispute.


Employment Claims Tribunals will start in April 2017 with more salary protection for PMEs

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