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Stirring Unhappiness

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Stirring UnhappinessMr John Lee, 50, left his previous job and joined a US-based company as a Welding Engineer. He was excited to be working for one of the market leaders in the oil and gas industry; the company had branches in more than 10 countries and employed more than 1,000 staff.

Nine months into his new job, Mr Lee’s company recruited a young Welding Engineer from another country. Mr Lee noticed that since then, he and some other local welders were assigned to lower-level welding works. He viewed that higher-level welding works were assigned to foreign welders.

Mr Lee’s unhappiness led him to approach his Member of Parliament to complain about unfair work allocation and discrimination against Singaporeans at his work place. The complaint was referred to TAFEP.

We contacted Mr Lee to better understand the issue. Since he was still working with the company and was not a union member, we suggested that he bring the matter up to the company’s HR department using their internal grievance handling channel. In fact, employees who experienced discrimination should seek clarification from their employers. This is to help avoid misunderstandings and preserve a positive employer-employee relationship.

We also offered to approach the company, subject to his consent. After careful consideration, Mr Lee did not wish for any approach to his employer as he felt it was too sensitive. This was in spite of TAFEP’s assurance that we would protect the confidentiality of his identity. In this case, the situation was such that the employer might be able to deduce Mr Lee’s identity.

Allegations of discrimination can be complex and sensitive. The cooperation of the complainant is needed to ensure that all necessary facts gathered are accurate and complete. This ensures that there is accountability, fairness and transparency in handling the complaint, for the complainant as well as the company and their representatives. While TAFEP can try to mask confidential details, employees have to confirm their identity, details and give consent before TAFEP’s approach to employers.

We advised Mr Lee to contact us again should he require further assistance. We also advised him about job placement assistance provided by CDCs and e2i should he decide to look for alternative employment. Employers should apply relevant and objective selection criteria consistently for all aspects of employment. As Singaporeans must remain the core of our workforce, employers should make the reasonable efforts to develop the skills and expertise of Singaporean employees for higher-level jobs.