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A less hostile mediation approach is often better than legal means in tackling workplace discrimination - SMF :Voices

A less hostile mediation approach is often better than legal means in tackling workplace discrimination - SMF :Voices

Source: TODAY
Article Date: 07 Jan 2021

SMF believes that flexibility afforded in avenues such as mediation, especially in any labour dispute, is certainly a less hostile and less confrontational format.

We refer to the letters by Ms Mamta Melwani ("Workplace discrimination: Laws needed to hold errant employers to account"; Dec 7) from the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) and Mr Sim Gim Guan ("Here's why workplace discrimination laws are not the way to go: SNEF"; Dec 15) from the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

The Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) stands together with Aware and SNEF in taking a stand firmly against any form of workplace discrimination.

Even though both Ms Melwani and Mr Sim have given interesting statistics in relation to workplace discrimination, statistics provided over a five-year period are perhaps more coherent and persuasive relative to statistics done on a comparative year-to-year basis, especially since the year that has just passed is one out of the ordinary.

In this regard, while workplace discrimination still exists, it is encouraging that the number of complaints has decreased over a five-year period from 2015, as reported by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep).

The SMF is an 89-year-old organisation that is currently serving more than 4,000 members comprising small- and medium-sized enterprises, multinational corporations and affiliates. 

While the enactment of legislation may appear able to quench an immediate thirst for action, there is still an argument to be made that legislative fiats are often not the silver bullets against rooting out opportunistic behaviours and not pervasive in every workplace.

To clarify, SMF is not against such legislation being considered or enacted.

We note that when responding to parliamentary questions posed to her on Sept 4, 2020, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has herself said that it is not unthinkable for a minister to put in place legislative protection for workers.

One such example she quoted was that of the Retirement and Re-employment Act, which protects our senior workers.

While SMF acknowledges that Tafep is not without teeth, as it works closely with the Ministry of Manpower to take deterrent actions for egregious employers,  SMF opines that any   meaningful and sustainable complaisance still requires all stakeholders to ingest the positive spirit of any employment relationship, rather than be compelled to do so by prescriptive legislation.

SMF believes that flexibility afforded in avenues such as mediation, especially in any labour dispute, is certainly a less hostile and less confrontational format.

This is where parties can come together to resolve their differences, with cool heads and calm hearts among themselves, juxtaposed against the relative rigidity of a legislative framework that may end up being a protracted and painful process for both complainant and alleged offender.

With all due respect, we at SMF humbly request that Ms Melwani considers that as trends are on the downside and that a framework already exists, to stand with both SNEF and SMF, to further bolster and promulgate the work of Tafep.

Lawrence Pek, Secretary- General, Singapore Manufacturing Federation

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