Recently, a Singaporean PMET working for Refinitiv Asia (the Financial & Risk business branch of Thomson Reuters Asia) told TOC that she was “unfairly” retrenched in favour of a foreigner (‘Woman retrenched in favour of foreign talent, MOM says it can’t help‘).
Laura, who is in her 40s, earned a 5-figure salary in the company. She described herself as “just another local PMET who was retrenched recently from a Multi-National Company (MNC) and being displaced by an FT [foreign talent] who is not any cheaper if not more expensive than me.”
She told TOC that she was informed in January this year by her employer that she has under-performed for the year 2019. She said, “The FT hiring manager was recently relocated to Singapore from [Hong Kong] and shortly after, he informed me that though my BAU (business as usual) is solid, I had failed to value add.”
However, Laura noted that this manager did not elaborate nor give specific examples of value-adding, simply saying that he expected her to do more than her BAU. Aggrieved, Laura slammed the MNC for not having a proper performance appraisal system and for “simply telling people at end of the year that sorry you have under-performed, out you go.”
She said that the appraisal early last year for her 2018 performance was good, having received an “Achieved” rating which she said is equivalent to about 2 months’ bonus. The only bad appraisal was the most recent one. She added, “Nothing whatsoever was documented throughout the year to indicate any under-performance on my part.”
“I was told I had to go because my role had combined with a lady from HK and she will be relocating from HK to SG to replace me. I asked if he had considered me for that combined role and he said he had appraised and think the HK lady is more suitable,” she told TOC.
It’s not known if Refinitiv Asia used the Jobs Bank to advertise for the said job in Singapore, before giving the job to the Hong Kong lady transferring from Hong Kong. According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), all employers must practise “fair hiring”. From 1 May 2020, the fixed monthly salary threshold for exemption from advertising on Jobs Bank will be raised to $20,000 and above, from the current $15,000.
MOM denies not helping Laura
Laura also accused MOM of not helping in her case. After TOC published her story, MOM replied on Sat (14 Mar) confirming that indeed there was a dispute between Laura and Refinitiv Asia (‘MOM’s Response to Claims Made By “Laura”‘) which it initially named Laura with her real name but then retracted that version of its press release.
MOM denies that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), an agency linked to MOM, was not doing anything for Laura.
“On 6 Mar 2020, ‘Laura’ informed TAFEP that her severance payment was received and accused TAFEP for holding back the investigation against her wishes. In a further email on the same day, she threatened that if she did not hear back after a week, she will proceed with an interview with Gilbert Goh. Our officer replied on the same day confirming that TAFEP will proceed with the investigation as previously agreed with her. ‘Laura’ responded that her story was already published by Gilbert Goh,” MOM replied.
“In spite of her threats and abusive approach, we have tried our best to be supportive and to follow up with her claims of discrimination by Refinitiv Asia. If the company has breached any part of the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, firm action will be taken against it.”
“In addition, we have advised ‘Laura’ on 30 Jan 2020 and 24 Feb 2020 that if she wishes to pursue a claim of wrongful dismissal, she should file a claim within 1 month after her last day of employment (in other words, by 19 March 2020). Her claim will be looked at separately from TAFEP’s investigation into Refinitiv Asia’s practices,” MOM assured.
Certainly, Laura would have been emotionally traumatized with the sudden loss of a good job, which may explain her “abusiveness”. Her anger towards the company and perhaps even towards the government is understandable.
Afterall, it was PM Lee himself who admitted at the 2010 National Day Rally that Singapore accepts a large inflow of foreign workers, new citizens and PRs because “conditions were good, we caught the wind, we moved forward”.
In any case, it’s not known how TAFEP is going to proceed investigating Refinitiv Asia. It remains to be seen if MOM would proceed to issue an Employment Pass for the Hong Kong lady earmarked to replace Laura, assuming that Laura’s claims of discrimination were found to be true.
TOC has written to TAFEP, Refinitiv and Thomson Reuters about this matter but no reply has been received so far.