If you have been working on contract for a long time, you may have been suckered

 

If you have been continuously working short-term contracts, stop. Stop and question your boss why he/she has been refusing to move you into full-time employment.

By consistently offering short-term work contracts, an employer can deny a worker job security, paid leave, health care benefits (especially with Medisave Life), paying CPF and retrenchment benefits. It is not fair that this money be saved at a worker’s expense.

When one ends, they’ll ask you to sign another.

The NTUC has, during the last revision of the Employment Act, raised the complaint that members have faced with multiple renewal of contracts.

Singapore-worker

Although it has not yet been written into the EA, perhaps the Ministry of Manpower could consider developing a framework to prevent abuse of short-term contracts. This can be done via a variety of ways:

  • Legislation to enforce conversion to full-time employment when term-contract is up
  • Require companies to file reasons as to why a contract renewal is necessary
  • Mandate CPF to be paid even for contractual relationships

As sources of local manpower become more and more diverse (students, returning workers, mature workers etc), we have to ensure that companies are not cannibalising off the weak bargaining position of these workers.

Some odd job labourers, who are low wage workers, I have spoken to tell us me of how they’re put on short-term contracts, doing things like air-con maintenance, delivery, painting, minor electrical works, washing of facilities – and they’re not enjoying the protection, wages and rest that a normal worker is entitled to.

How are we to close up the income gap when practices like this exist?

Cleaners are covered by the Progressive Wage Model, but who is stopping the irresponsible employer from abusing the system, classifying his staff as an “odd-jobs labourer” and then paying on contract?

As the labour movement is trying to lift wages, recalcitrant employers will find more and more creative ways to worm their way out of paying.

I understand that businesses are not easy to run, bosses take financial risks and winding up of a company can send employers into bankruptcy. But that doesn’t mean that wages should be depressed. When a landlord increases his fee, and a supplier increases his prices – why should an employee sit by quietly and allow his/her salary to be low, whilst others are enjoying profit?

I strongly encourage readers to be aware of the creative abuses employers can use to deny a worker of his/her rights. Lobby your politician, speak with your employer, write to the newspapers and support the unions when they try to move these policies.

At the next review of the EA, a Bill should be passed to forbid contracts extending beyond a year. Until then, we must keep these discussions alive.

 

 

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About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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