Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Preaching from flawed perch

I really do not like it when public servants perched in their lofty crystal towers preach of values they don't seem to have. A case in point is this recent letter from the Ministry of Manpower, which was a response to this letter featured on The Online Citizen.

The ministry's letter states "it is critical to remain objective and ensure that employees' claims are valid". This value of objectivity surfaces again in another line: "We urge NGOs to assess each case objectively and comprehensively, rather than rushing to assign blame".

Yet, the letter in disclosing the work MOM did in this case, goes on to provide, "we reviewed documentary evidence of salary calculations and records of the company and established that Yang was not owed any salary".

How is that being objective when you rely on the documentary evidence of one party, and totally remain silent on the evidence of the other?

A lot of times the person representing the company in such manpower dispute resolution sessions at Ministry of Manpower has had some form of legal training. How does this stack up against the foreign worker who speaks little English and has peripheral knowledge of his legal rights?

The fact is the Ministry of Manpower in being the investigator and adjudicator of such claims is hardly in a position to be objective.

Many years ago, a body of corporate lawyers representing employers in Singapore recommended that the resolution of employment disputes should really be the remit of a properly equipped and independent tribunal, as is the case in jurisdictions of similar standing to Singapore. That paper is probably now gathering dust on some public servant's shelf.

Notwithstanding the lack of judicial training and legal qualifications, which would go towards determining ability, a public servant whose mandate is to protect the job market in Singapore and therefore the employer hardly has the will to work in the interests of workers.
It is an inherent trait in this role that such a public servant cannot be objective let alone preach to others about being objective.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?
Feel free to react below or leave a comment.


Cynical Investor said...

You did yr training contract in one of the top corporate law firms in S'pore. Surely you would have been taught(as I was many, many yrs ago) that the best evidence is documentary?

I agree with you that MOM are the last people on earth that should preach objectivity, but not on the evidence you brought forth.

Dharmendra Yadav said...

Maybe, I didn't spend enough time in litigation! haha

My point really is if too much weight is being given to documentary evidence by such employers. For example, what considerations are being taken to ensure that the evidence relied on was not conjured by force.

Surely, other evidence is relevant and should carry some weight too.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. The FWs are often if not always at a great disadvantage in such issues.
We befriended the cleaners in our estate and without fail presented them with tokens of our appreciation for their good work on festive occasions. These workers later took us into their confidence and related to us some of their experiences with their employers, like having to foot their GP medical bills, and even having to pay what amounted to about half of the TOTAL salary they would earn before they could renew their contract period. Their employers told them this is a requirement of the workers' agent! And the employer is to collect it (a couple of thousand $) from them on behalf of the agent! After several years working here, many returned home unhappy and not much better off than when they first arrived.

It's appalling.