Employers up against overtime pay for white-collar workers

2 of Singapore employer-interest groups, the Singapore National Employer Federation(SNEF) and the Association of Small and Medium Enterprise (ASME), have expressed dissatisfaction against the recent proposal by the NTUC to introduce overtime pay for white-collar workers. SNEF executive director Koh Juan Kiat suggested the move will lead to over-protection, more labor market rigidity and a higher employment cost. Somehow contradictingly sitting as a member of the National Wages Council that influence salaries of employees in Singapore, Koh Juan Kiat urged NTUC to be cautious and not be over-protective of employees. ASME’s President Chan Chong Beng was however less reserved and criticized the move as untimely saying SMEs will suffer a double blow and see a further dip in profits.

The move to introduce overtime pay for white-collar workers is partially motivated by former National Wages Council chairman Professor Lim Chong Yah, who called for a “wage shock therapy” to close the rising income gap as it may result in social instability. According to a recent survey by Jobstreet[Source], 9 in 10 employees in Singapore work overtime and this absence of a work-life balance has been blamed for the country’s falling birth rate. By introducing overtime pay for white-collar workers, employers will think twice before expecting the middle class workers to complete unrealistic work load. Most employers in Singapore, especially the SMEs, are saving tens of thousands in salaries every year by expecting work to be completed with lesser headcounts. SMEs are expected to be the chief complainer of the move because many of them are barely surviving or earning decent profits from the substantial savings in cheap foreign labor.

NTUC Secretary General Lim Swee Say and PAP MPs who manage the NTUC were strangely silent over the move. Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh said that companies will have to adjust and learn to work under these conditions, somewhat hinting that the policies would be bulldozed through despite the employers’ objections. The MP also said that employers can now build employee loyalty like what we used to do in the past and have happy and more productive employees, giving the idea that employee loyalty is no longer promoted today and employees are largely unhappy and less productive.

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