High Court Rules Against Former NTUC Income Agents
You would have read that the High Court recently ruled against former financial consultants (FCs) of NTUC Income to have their dispute with their former employer, NTUC Income heard in an open court.
Here’s my take on why the High court was right to pass the judgement.
Open Court vs Closed-Door
The court ruled that the case should be brought to the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) for the dispute to be heard in a closed-door setting.
Based on the contracts signed by the FCs, employment disputes will have to be first brought to arbitration. Hence, it was already a breach of the contract that the FCs had signed earlier.
The FCs also felt that if their dispute was heard in an open court with public viewing, they would have better bargaining position. Honestly, if you have a case to fight, why fear if it is within an open court or closed-door setting?
Employees to Self-Employed
The FCs brought up the fact that they were coerced into signing new service contracts that transformed them from employees into independent self-employed agents overnight. But this is not true. According to NTUC Income, the FCs were never employees of NTUC Income at all.
The FCs claimed tax relief for business expenses, hired their own staff, purchased their own equipment and even set up their own companies to facilitate sales. They even controlled their own working hours.
With the new service contract signed, NTUC Income ensured that the rights and benefits of the FCs were fully preserved and that they were financially not worse off. So it looks like the FCs were never happy with what they got.
Forced to sign
Right from the onset, the NTUC Income management held several meetings and discussions with the FCs to explain the rationale for the changes and that the company would support them through the transition.
The company also repeatedly assured FCs that they would not be worse off financially as all benefits are fully preserved.
In order to meet the 25 march 2012 deadline to negotiate with IRAS, the NTUC Income management set 26 March 2012 as the deadline for FC to sign the new contracts to reflect the clarified status as self-employed and independent contractors of NTUC Income.
How can be considered a form of coercion if the employer had repeatedly met with affected workers to explain impending changes while also assuring the workers that they would not be worse off financially?
The bottom line: the FCs seem like they want more than they can get by making all these allegations.