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Employers urged to be reasonable when implementing Job Flexibility Scheme

25 March 2013 - Channel News Asia. Singapore, The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has urged employers to be "sensible and reasonable" when implementing the Job Flexibility Scheme that allows foreign workers across the services industry to take on multiple job roles.

by Imelda Saad

SINGAPORE: The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has urged employers to be "sensible and reasonable" when implementing the Job Flexibility Scheme that allows foreign workers across the services industry to take on multiple job roles.

The scheme, first introduced within the hospitality sector last year, is aimed at raising productivity and wages for workers.

The initiative has been extended to sectors across the entire services industry.

Responding to the move, head of the labour movement's Hospitality and Consumer Business Cluster, Yeo Guat Kwang, stressed that workers' consent must be sought, and that their health and safety cannot be compromised.

Those who do not want to take up the Job Flexibility Scheme, said Mr Yeo, should not be penalised by their employer.

He added that employers should also review their existing manpower practices, and assess how job flexibility can be applied to raise their productivity.

Mr Yeo said: "We would like to remind employers that they must share the productivity gains with employees. With job flexibility, employers can achieve manpower optimisation, thereby improving productivity.

"Such productivity benefits should be shared with employees, especially those who have contributed by performing multiple job functions, in a manner that is fair and commensurate with the employees' contributions.

"Employers should also give multi-tasking and additional income opportunities fairly to both local and foreign employees.

"Employers also must ensure that employees be trained properly before being tasked to take on the enhanced work functions and scope, which may include on-the-job learning."

NTUC, together with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Singapore National Employers Federation, is working on a set of guidelines to help companies implement the scheme, so that workers - both locals and foreigners - are duly protected.

Mr Yeo said the proposed guidelines should apply to both unionised and non-unionised companies.

Separately, Mr Yeo, who is also the chairman of the Migrant Workers' Centre, welcomed the introduction of the market-based skills framework for Work Permit Holders (WPH) in the services sector.

The initiative allows Work Permit Holders in the services sector to upgrade from unskilled (R2) to skilled (R1) status if they earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$1,600 and have worked in Singapore as a Work Permit Holder for at least four years.

When workers are upgraded to the R1 status, their maximum employment period is 18 years, as compared to 10 years for those at the R2 status. This is to encourage employers to retain experienced and skilled foreign workers.

Mr Yeo said the move is in line with calls for tripartite partners to focus on quality over quantity for the foreign workforce.

He added that local workers will also benefit because employers are discouraged from recruiting foreign workers who are less experienced and regarded as cheaper labour alternatives.

"By pegging skill status to working experience of workers, employers are encouraged to retain their experienced workers, rather than hire new and inexperienced ones.

"Workers' salary should be commensurate with the competency and work experience of the worker. The newly-added four-year work experience minimum is also a reasonable period for a WPH to gain the relevant experience in his job," said Mr Yeo.

Mr Yeo said the ministry should prevent companies from merely increasing salaries of their Work Permit Holders, to enjoy the skilled levies.

The Migrant Workers' Centre has asked the ministry to closely monitor the implementation of the scheme and take firm action against employers who abuse the system.

"MOM must ensure that all workers - locals and foreign - are valued and treated fairly, said Mr Yeo.

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1260797/1/.html

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