Thirty-eight financial consultants (FCs) are suing their company, NTUC Income, for terminating their contracts without due retrenchment benefits and compensation.
The FCs actually spent more than a year trying to seek redress for their grievances through many channels, including appealing to MPs, Ministers, NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say, and writing to PM Lee, before filing the High Court application.
Last October, the High Court dismissed an application filed by three of the FCs — and supported by 141 others in NTUC Income against their union. The first pre-trial conference takes place on 28 March, and has MP Hri Kumar representing NTUC Income and Peter Low the FCs.
Many of the FCs have been with NTUC Income for decades. They allege that at no time did their employer, NTUC Income, sit down with their union — the Singapore Insurance Employees’ Union (SIEU), an NTUC affiliate — or them to negotiate the terms of this change of status which greatly impacted the livelihood of the more than 660 NTUC FCs. SIEU, the union, was also unhelpful. General consent from the FCs was not obtained by vote to see if they wanted to change their employment status (from employee to independent contractor with huge loss of benefits.
Last October, the High Court threw out their case against SIEU but Justice Choo Han Tect said the FCs could sue NTUC Income or SIEU in a civil suit, which is what they have done.
The FCs also allege that they were forced to sign the new independent contractor agreement or they would not be allowed to continue to sell insurance products for NTUC Income.
Once the independent contractor agreement was signed, the FCs lost the benefits they previously enjoyed when they were employees. This included the right to collective bargaining and union protection, as well as retrenchment and leave benefits.