Singapore’s private-hire drivers and delivery workers will soon have a formal seat at the negotiation table with platform operators, thanks to a set of recommendations accepted by the Government on Wednesday (July 12).
These recommendations, put forth by a tripartite workgroup, aim to improve the representation and resolution of issues between platform workers and operators. The eight recommendations cover various areas, including the formalisation of recognition for representative bodies, the scope of negotiations, and the resolution of disputes.
The move to enhance representation for platform workers stems from an advisory committee’s identification of three key areas in 2021 to better protect gig workers, who do not have the same protections as regular employees.
The other two areas include the introduction of mandatory Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions for younger workers and workplace injury insurance protection.
The recommendations from the workgroup aim to provide avenues for workers to negotiate their interests and establish clear dispute resolution processes for platform operators. The implementation of the recommendations is expected to begin in the second half of 2024, following close collaboration with tripartite partners, platform workers, and platform operators.
A “win-win” framework
The proposed framework will cover around 88,000 platform workers, including delivery workers, private-hire car drivers, and taxi drivers who use online platforms. The recommendations do not currently extend to other freelance or gig workers.
While there are existing associations under the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) advocating for platform workers, they lack the formal mandate to negotiate collective agreements on behalf of the workers.
The recommendations by the workgroup outline a process for representative bodies to obtain a mandate, which can be achieved through direct recognition by the platform operator or a secret ballot.
To ensure representation from relevant workers, very new or inactive workers would be excluded from the voting process. The recommendations also suggest that negotiations should be flexible and guided by a set of principles agreed upon by the tripartite workgroup.
The enhanced representation framework will enable representative bodies to sign legally binding collective agreements with platform operators, ensuring accountability from the companies. In the event of unresolved disputes, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will facilitate conciliation, with the option to escalate to the Industrial Arbitration Court if necessary.
Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Koh Poh Koon, emphasised that the recommendations consider the unique characteristics of platform work, particularly its flexibility. He stated that the recommendations create a “win-win” framework for both operators and workers, preserving the harmonious relationship between the two parties.
The new framework has received positive responses from NTUC, as it paves the way for the labour movement and its affiliated associations to officially represent platform workers.
The workgroup’s recommendations draw inspiration from existing trade union frameworks and aim to adapt them to the platform work business model. The NTUC highlighted that current laws do not permit platform workers to form unions, resulting in challenges during negotiations and dispute resolution.
The recommendations for the enhanced representation framework were developed by a tripartite workgroup consisting of representatives from MOM, NTUC, the Singapore National Employers Federation, and platform operators.
The workgroup referenced the existing rules of engagement between trade unions and employers, which have proven successful in preserving industrial harmony in Singapore.
The new legislative framework, along with the proposed measures for CPF contributions and workplace injury insurance protection, demonstrates the government’s commitment to improving the welfare and protection of platform workers.
The introduction of representative bodies and negotiation processes will empower platform workers to address issues such as earnings and welfare collectively, ultimately providing them with more bargaining power in the gig economy.
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