More PMEs (Professionals, Managers and Executives) are becoming aware of Tripartite Mediation that came into effect from February 2011 after the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill was passed by Parliament on 22 November 2010.
It is a process for PMEs earning up to $4,500 monthly to resolve employment disputes that might otherwise involve costly and protracted legal proceedings.
One recent case was that of John (not his real name). All seemed well when he landed a job as Technical Manager sometime last year in a manufacturing company (`the company’).The work suited him and he had the relevant experience to contribute to the company’s productivity. Unfortunately for John, the honeymoon period was soon over.
He helped increased productivity and performed well but, on hindsight, perhaps too well. To cut a long story short, more and more work was being piled on him over and above what was required of him.
John explained: “I was expected to work longer and longer hours and take on increasingly more responsibilities. I had to arrive first before the other workers and be the last to leave. Even if I went back one hour after the official knocking off time, I would be questioned why. It wasa strain and I was not entitled to overtime or allowances.”
Alarmed, John delayed signing the confirmation letter after the probation period of six months was up and sought to clarify his employment terms and conditions with the company’s management and HR. Sadly, the non-unionised company had a take it or leave it attitude and refused to address his concerns.
As matters were unresolved, John again did not sign the confirmation letter when asked to a second time. Not long after, the company dropped a bombshell by terminating him on grounds of his refusal to sign the letter. To add salt to the wound, the company also refused to pay his pro-rated annual leave, medical entitlement and salary in lieu of work.
Out of work, John fell into depression.Then his luck changed. With time on his hands,John, a General Branch member of the United Workers of Electronic and Electrical Industries (UWEEI), dropped by the union’s office to pick up an annual gift. While there, UWEEI Industrial Relations Officer Tan Wei Ping learnt about John’s problem and told him about Tripartite Mediation for PMEs like him.
John was directed to the NTUC Industrial Relations Department General Branch Unit who approached the company but it still refused to budge. The matter was then brought up to the Ministry of Manpower for Tripartite Mediation where a stressed out John was grateful for the assistance of NTUC IRD Deputy Director James Tan and Senior IRO Loh Pui Chun.
After a few mediation sessions, the company agreed to pay John a better than expected lump sum ex-gratia payment. A grateful John wrote letters of thanks to the IROs concerned and said: “I feel that NTUC and UWEEI are doing a fantastic job in assisting employees like me and many others who had been unfairly treated by such employers. I was unaware there are such avenues for assistance and I am sure there are many more such members.”