Friday, March 29, 2013

Conversion of sales employees to independent contractors

Someone asked me:
Income insurance agents are having problems with their employer and its union. What are your thoughts on it?

Before I joined NTUC Income in 1977, the sales people were already treated as employees and were eligible for CPF and other employee benefits. 

As employees, they were also allowed to join the trade union. They were able to raise issues to the management through the union. Although difficult at times, these issues could be resolved with goodwill on both sides.

All along, we had treated the commission and bonus earned by them as income, and were subject to CPF contributions and income tax. The incentives given under sales contests were treated as non-income, as they were credited as "points" to be used for the purchase of sales items to be given away to clients. These incentives were relatively small at that time.

I believe that this treatment must have been reviewed with IRAS over the years, and was not aware about any formal objection raised by them.

I understand that the current management of NTUC Income had decided to change the employment status of the sales employees to "independent contractors" following a recent objection raised by IRAS on under-declaration of income which probably referred to the treatment of the sales contest incentives as non-income. 

Even if IRAS were to object to this treatment now, it was possible for the management to start declaring these incentive payments as income, without having to change the status of the sales people as employees. 

I am not aware if there were other reasons to change the status of the sales people and if there were other grievances arising from the change.

I can understand that some of the old timers would probably liked to remain treated as employees, rather than "independent contractors". There are advantages to them of being represented by a trade union who can speak for them collectively and give them a sense of security against unfair dismissal.

I hope that they can resolve the dispute with the management without having to incur the expenses of litigation, which must be a heavy financial burden for them.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Unacceptable fees for using cheques


BANK Negara's proposal to increase the cost of using cheques from 15 sen to 65 sen beginning April 2014, is unwarranted and should be withdrawn.

Though Bank Negara wants to encourage consumers to use electronic banking, it is premature to do so as online transactions too have their limits.

Firstly, there is the question of safety and reliability.
Is it safe to transfer large sums of money online?

Losses in Internet banking due to fraud was RM3.2mil in 2012. When more are forced to use online transfer the figure will go up.

From experience we know how difficult it is for consumers to fight the banks when something goes wrong with electronic transfer of money.

The banks invariably reply that their system is running smoothly and the loss has to be borne by the consumers.

Secondly, not everyone is Internet savvy while others do not have access to the Internet.
When consumers feel comfortable with transferring money online, they will automatically start doing so because of its convenience.

Until then, it is not fair for consumers to be penalised for using cheques. 

President, Consumers Association of Penang

Metropolitan Museum of Art's entrance fee 'deceptive'

The main lobby of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York  19 March 2013
About six million people attend the New York museum annually
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's practice
of requesting a 'recommended' admission fee of $25 (£16)
deceives patrons entitled to pay as little as they choose,
a lawsuit charges.

The lawsuit, filed in New York City on behalf of former patrons,
contends that the world famous museum, which receives six million visitors a year,
uses misleading marketing and cashier training to deceive unwary visitors.

A former employee of the Met may testify, alleging that
cashiers were trained to encourage visitors to pay the full fee by saying things like
'you must realise it is very expensive to run the museum'and that signage was changed from 'suggested' to 'recommended'because administrators believed it would encourage people to pay more..

Museum admission fees help fund operations

IN HIS letter last Saturday
("Offer free museum entry to all"),
Mr Tan Kin Lian suggested making museum entry free for all,
including foreign visitors.
... by continuing to charge foreign visitors general museum admission fees,
and charging both local and foreign visitors for special exhibitions,
our museums will be able to offer
high-quality exhibitions in a sustainable manner for all to enjoy.
Indeed,there are many museums in other countries that provide
free entry to residents, and charge fees to foreign visitors.
Yeo Whee Jim
Arts and Heritage Division
Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth

I wrote to Yeo Whee Jim

Dear Mr. Yeo

Thank you for replying to my letter in the Straits Times.

You may have missed my point. I felt that the amount collected from visitors might not justify the money spent to employ people to collect the fees.

Can I ask for a breakdown on the following:

a) How much is spent yearly on staff salaries and other cost to collect admission fees?
b) How much is collected as admission fees from visitors

Prudent steps to a healthier hospital bill

Some prudent steps can be taken
to bring healthcare costs down.
patients must not think that if they are insured,
it is okay not to check hospital bills or query about the bill,
especially at a private hospital.
we must educate healthcare practitioners to be more ethical,
and not take advantage of insurance coverage
by asking patients to do unnecessary tests.

Hefty MediShield premiums an improvement?

... many in the 61-65 age group are not working
or working at subsistence level.
How will they continue to afford the premiums,
as the top-up is a one-off assistance?

If they cannot afford the Medishield premium, they will find the private Shield, which 
cost 3 to 4 times of Medishield, to be even more unaffordable.

Claim process needs fixing

THE General Insurance Association of Singapore's reply
("Report accidents to insurers"; yesterday)
to Ms Wendy Ang Kweng Gee's letter
("Left in the lurch over car insurance claim"; Monday)
gives rise to more questions
about the effectiveness of the insurance industry in such cases.

Reporting all accidents may not be a good idea

... a leading workshop advised me not to file unnecessary reports,
especially for claims that were unlikely to succeed,
such as those for hit-and-run accidents by unknown culprits.
I was also warned about the anticipated long-drawn claim process
against foreign-registered vehicles.
I was told that making too many reports
could result in insurers categorising one as a high-risk driver,
and raising the insurance premium.
Also, why are accident reports by third parties
not communicated promptly to the parties involved,
unless one asks for them?

A Sincere Statement

Let it be clear that the Opposition and their supporters are not a bunch of crazies who want trouble and nothing. Like all Singaporeans, we want to live in a healthy, happy environment, and are also willing to work hard for it. We also want to see prosperity, peace and stability.

The difference is that we know that to enjoy all these, there needs to be a significant shift in the way our country is run, in the way our policies are implemented and our politics played. Real stability, real peace, real prosperity are what we are looking for. And that cannot be at the expense of our individual citizens. 

The days of the old empire must be put aside. The light of enlightenment must befall our shores. The dream we want to achieve will come and must come in order for us, all of us, to sleep in peace at night and thrive in the mornings.
It is not about dismantling what need not be dismantled. It is about replacing what should be. It is about building a new world, a safer, fairer, better world, for people to live in. 

It is as much about patriotism as it is about the dignity shared by all mankind. It is as much about economy as it is about society and welfare. It is as much about material as well as emotional things. 

We must spread the message, that we come with love, with a desire to better Singapore, with inclusivity and compassion, strong will and big hearts. 

We are not petty little people, or noisy nuisances. We will make a big impact, be a big voice and lead the big example for the change of tomorrow. 

We will..' -via The New Era

Sgc Ommoner

Car hit from behind

Letter in ST forum. 

LAST July, my car was hit from behind by another car.
I reported the accident to the insurance firm-designated workshop, thinking I could go ahead with the repairs.
However, half a year passed with no progress. The workshop said the insurance company was sitting on the claim.
When I called the insurance company, it said the other driver never reported the incident, so it could not proceed with the claim. I made a police report but the police said they would not take action as there was no injury.
I later found out that the other driver and I had policies under the same insurance company.
Is this the way an insurance company acts on claims? Is there a loophole somewhere?
My car was damaged but I cannot receive compensation even though it was not my fault.
The insurance company asked me to claim on my own insurance or go to a lawyer, for which I would have to cough out more money. I am at my wits' end.

When you meet with an accident, report to your insurance company and let them handle the repair and recovery from the third party. Don't try to get your workshop to make a third party claim - as you may face this difficulty. If you make a claim on your own insurance policy, you will lose the No Claim Bonus (up to 30% only). If the accident is obviously the fault of the other party, a good insurance company may allow your NCB - so look for a good one.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Seek appropriate health care

22 March 2013

Forum Page
Straits Times

The Minister of Health wants to review the health care system to make it more affordable to the public.  I wish to bring forward the following issue for his consideration in this review. 

When a person gets old, say beyond 80 years, some organs are likely to fail, or cancer will creep in. It is a matter of time before they have to say goodbye. There is nothing much that can be done to "cure" the illness. Even if expensive treatment is carried out successfully, other parts of the body will fail. This is 
described as "complications".

Treatment has its risks. some people die earlier due to the treatment. If they are untreated, 
they might, in some cases, live longer and have a better quality of life for their remaining months.

Trying to treat old people, and often with unsuccessful results, is the source of escalating health care 
costs in many countries, including Singapore. Using private medical insurance or increasing the public funding to pay for these expenses is not the solution. We need a more sensible approach towards this issue. 

Some types of treatment should be encouraged and other types should be discouraged, and these rules 
should be made by medical experts who do not have any vested interest.

If the family receives impartial and proper advice on what can and cannot be treated, they will save a lot of pain and anguish for their elderly parents and also avoid spending a lot of money on futile treatment in the mistaken belief that they are doing the best for their parents. 

This will also stop the country from wasting a lot of resources that can be put to better use.

Tan Kin Lian

Bon Appetit

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Making life difficult for the public

Read this document to understand the trouble that the public has to go through to submit an online application to a government agency. The people who design the websites are most inconsiderate, and waste a lot of time of the public with pages of unnecessary and misleading information, and breaks up their forms into many web-pages with a high risk of wrong navigation, browser error and internet connection issues. 

I have sent this letter to the Acting Minister for Manpower. 

I experienced similar difficulties with many government agencies. They follow the same approach - make life easy for themselves and give "hell" to the public.

Seminar on Population White Paper, 23 March 2013

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