Circular No: M&P/271/12/kr
11 December 2020
ADVISORY ON THE CHANGE OF EMPLOYER (COE) SERVICE THROUGH THE SCAL CONSTRUCTION MANPOWER EXCHANGE (SCMX)
As the resumption of construction activities gains pace, many firms are facing shortage of workers and rising costs due to loss of productivity. The rampant poaching of foreign workers has become a serious problem in the construction industry. As the demand outstrips supply due to closure of borders, many workers have sought to change employer, taking advantage of the “no consent” period of 40-21 days before work permit expiry to get higher wages.
SCAL had raised this concern to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Building and Construction Authority (BCA) on the adverse impact this has on the industry. One of our recommendations was to temporarily suspend the “no consent” period until the supply of returning or new foreign workers is stabilised.
MOM could not adopt our recommendation of the temporary suspension of the “no consent’ period as some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would then question the right of workers in choosing their employers. To mitigate this problem, MOM has since issued an advisory on the rules on Change of Employer (COE). (Refer attached)
Under a new arrangement with MOM, each COE application during the “no consent” period is referred to SCAL through the SCMX platform to facilitate, with the aim to establish proper understanding by the employers, the workers and employment agents (where involved) on the COE rules.
One of the primary purposes of this process is to give the existing employer, if he wishes to retain the worker, a chance to discuss and negotiate with his worker. During the facilitation, existing employers are encouraged to discuss and mutually agree with their workers to renew their work permits; otherwise an amicable and smooth transfer is ensued.
We wish to reiterate that SCAL exercises no authority nor influence on the COE request or any transfer that takes place.
SCAL discourages the activities of aggressive poaching of workers with excessive increase in wages as that would only increase costs and lower productivity due to the disruptions.
We have and are working with the relevant authorities to open more borders from source countries so that more workers can return to Singapore to ease the current manpower crunch.