“Justice for foreign workers benefits Singaporean workers too,” says TWC2 President

Posted by on June 22, 2018 in Media Coverage, News, News Flash

In a commentary piece carried on Channel NewsAsia on 21 June 2018, Assistant Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress Patrick Tay wrote of the significance of a recent High Court judgement in favour of Bangladeshi worker Hasan Shofiqul — which had been earlier been reported prominently by the Straits Times (header pic).

Patrick Tay is also a People’s Action Party member of parliament.

Hasan Shofiqul’s employer China Civil (Singapore) Pte Ltd had denied that he was entitled to overtime wages on the ground that he supervised a team of workers. The Ministry of Manpower’s Labour Court largely agreed with the employer’s contention. TWC2 helped Shofiqul appeal the decision to the High Court, with the aid of pro-bono lawyers from law firm TSMP Corporation. The High Court ruled that Shofiqul’s job duties were not truly of managerial or executive level, and therefore he should be entitled to overtime pay.

The judge directed the Assistant Commissioner for Labour to compute how much Shofiqul was owed by the employer, with specific directions how to go about the calculation. This is still ongoing.

Screenshot from Patrick Tay’s Facebook page, wherein he made a separate mention of this new development.

Patrick Tay in his commentary highlighted the significance of this judgement. He wrote: “The judge made it clear that an employee is not a manager or executive merely because he can give feedback and thereby ‘influence’ his superior’s assessment of a team member.” Tay also estimated that “there are more than 30,000 who are classified as PMEs earning less than S$2,500 per month.”

He added: “I urge all workers whose employers classify them as PMEs, especially those whose monthly salary is lower and below $2,500, to re-examine their employment contract, job role, scope and powers as they may … be entitled to overtime payments.”

His comments were also reported in the Straits Times and on the front page of Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao on 21 June 2018.

The Employment Act states that except for “workmen”, those earning more than $2,500 per month are not entitled to overtime. The difficulty arises when those earning less than this figure are also “employed in a managerial or an executive position” (words used in the Employment Act’s Interpretation section); they are not entitled to overtime either. The High Court has now clarified that it is important to look closely at the actual duties and powers an employee has and to apply the law purposively.

“We are very glad that MP Patrick Tay is highlighting the significance of this court ruling, the fruit of much hard work by our volunteers, staff and pro-bono lawyers,” says Noorashikin Abdul Rahman, President of Transient Workers Count Too. “It only goes to show that justice for foreign workers benefits Singaporean workers too.”

The Employment Act applies to both local and foreign workers, though domestic workers are excluded.

“While TWC2 may be focussed on foreign workers, our mission is synergistic with the wellbeing and aspirations of working people generally.”

TWC2 also thanks our donors for their generous support, and who make our mission, including strategic litigation as in this case, possible.

TWC2 is an organization that is dedicated to assisting low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty. We are motivated by a sense of fairness and humanity, though our caseload often exceeds our
means.

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