Monday, 20 October 2014

Laws broken for Top World Universities Rankings

Did NTU break Laws to win Top Universities Rankings?

The Great Purge of Singaporean Professors and Lecturers was somehow deemed necessary in order to meet a Key Criteria – “International Staff Ratio” - of bogus World Universities Ranking Standards of Dubious Excellence. The Great Purge took place from 2007-2010.

The great Purge was conducted under the pretext of Tenure Evaluation from 2007-2010, during which mostly Singaporean Professors and Lecturers, including many already qualified for Tenure previously, were dismissed.  And when the dusts settled in 2010 after the Purge, NTU proudly announced that Singapore citizens including new citizens formed ONLY 44% of the faculty; 56% of NTU faculty are foreigners from 56 countries worldwide including Singapore PRs. Never mind the fact that most Universities in the World actually have a majority of local Professors.

In the Great Purge to DISCRIMINATE so as to “DOWN-Size” the number of Singaporean Professors and Lecturers, many applicable Laws were simply ignored and broken is such uncharacteristic manner unbefitting law-abiding Singaporeans in a Nation of Law and Order.  

Singaporean Professors and Lecturers were discriminated and sacrificed so that NTU could excel in the International Staff Ratio criteria of World Universities Ranking Standards of Dubious Excellence.

A little Background History will provide some Context for understanding. NTU Global Ranking had plunged 16 places from 61 in 2006 to 77 in 2008, or 29 places from 48 in 2003, to join the ranks of relative unknown and undistinguished Universities.  A study into the Ranking Criteria easily revealed the actions needed to climb to the “Top” (of what?).  Never mind that these Criteria are bogus and invalid factors having no bearing on teaching or research excellence and learning impact on the students.   

NTU Academic staff has the SAME inherent and inalienable rights to Non-Discrimination, as enjoyed by all Singaporeans, during employment. Such violated rights as enjoyed by Singaporean Professors and Lecturers were found in the following Laws, among other:

1)  The Constitution of Singapore
2)  The Retirement Age Act 2006 [Renamed in 2012]
3)  The NTU (Corporatisation) Act 2006
4)  International Labour Conventions – United Nations

NTU was “Corporatised” in 2006 to become more professionally managed but remained very much within the command and control of the Ministry of Education.

The Constitution of Singapore

The Constitution of Singapore under Article 12(1) states that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”.  Article 12(1) further prohibits discrimination against Singapore citizens on grounds of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law, administration of any law and in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority.

The NTU is a corporate entity under a public authority in accordance to the NTU (Corporisation) Act of 2006.

The Singapore Government does not condone any form of discrimination against employees. Our conduct of human resource management and industrial relations is based on merit and not on grounds which are of no relevance to a job.  The criterion test for any discriminatory management practices is “Job Relevance”.

The Retirement Age Act 1993 [Renamed in 2012 as Retirement and Reemployment Act]

NTU action in 2007 to retain staff at the retirement age of 55 years old clearly contravenes The Retirement Age Act of 1993.  Section 4 of the Act on Minimum Retirement Age stated that:

“(1) Notwithstanding anything in any other written law, contract of service or collective agreement, the retirement age of an employee shall be not less than 60 years or such other age, up to 67 years, as may be prescribed by the Minister.
(2) No employer shall dismiss on the ground of age any employee who is below 60 years of age or the prescribed retirement age.
(3) …..”

The outcomes of the Tenure 2007-2010 Exercises discriminating and separating tenured academic staff into those retiring at 65 years old and 55 years old respectively is illegal, according to Section 5 [Invalidity of term of contract of service] of the Act which stated that:

“Any term of a contract of service or collective agreement made before, on or after the commencement of this Act (1993) which provides for a retirement age which is less than 60 years or the prescribed retirement age shall be void to the extent that it is so less favourable.

NTU action in setting differential mandatory retirement age of 55 and 65 years old for tenured academic staff was therefore unlawful and unfair.

NTU (Corporatisation) Act 2006

The Nanyang Technological University (Corporatisation) Act 2006, in Section 13, directed that all existing staff as at 1 April 2006 shall continue to enjoy no less favourable (terms) than those enjoyed by them before that date. 

These “favourable terms” actually also included the rights of existing staff under the 1993 Retirement Act.  So said Section 5 of the Retiremnt Act above.

NTU Act 2006 - Section 13:
(1) On and after 1st April 2006, all persons employed immediately before that date by the predecessor university shall be transferred to the service of the university company on terms no less favourable than those enjoyed by them immediately prior to their transfer.
(2) Until such time as terms and conditions of service are drawn up by the university company, the scheme and terms and conditions of service in the predecessor university shall continue to apply to every person transferred to the service of the university company under subsection (1) as if he were still in the service of the predecessor university.

NTU Act 2006 - Section 13 provides for the protection of staff against discrimination in employment resulting from management decisions that are arbitrary, discriminative and unreasonable, as exemplified in the entire conduct of the Tenure Exercises from 2007-2010

A new NTU requirement that some academic staff should retire at 65 years old where others in an equivalent job retires at 55 years old amounted to “less favourable treatment” on the irrelevant basis of age and is therefore unlawful unless justifiable as a genuine occupational requirement.  

Universities, arguably more than any other sector of the economy, require the benefit of age and experience. Wisdom does not have a “best-before” date. Professors become better teachers, not worse ones, as their career continues.  Students often prefer their older, experienced and wiser professors, recognizing them as generally superior Teachers and Learning Facilitators and Mentors.

In accordance with the Retirement Act, in any change of the (working) conditions after 1993, the retirement age automatically became 65 years old for ALL without exception or exclusion.

By dividing staff into 2 groups, one retiring at 55 years old and the other retiring at 65 years old without any job relevance or distinction, it had discriminated arbitrarily and therefore violated the “equal protection” provision of Article 12 of The Singapore Constitution.  It was Unlawful, and illegal.

International Conventions of the United Nations

To further its illegal actions, NTU also devised a clever attempt to circumvent benefits that Staff had hitherto ENJOYED under Section 4(2) of the Retirement Act: “No employer shall dismiss on the ground of age any employee who is below 60 years of age or the prescribed retirement age

NTU demanded that those staff desiring to continue working beyond 55 years old, if they had not already been selected for the 65 year old retirement age group, MUST accept a Mandatory 50% pay reduction.  This forced a Hobson’s choice especially for Singaporeans rooted here with families and children attending local schools.   

In doing so, NTU also contravened the International Labour Conventions of the United Nations of which Singapore is also a signatory. The 50% Mandatory pay reduction was a clear violation of the Core ILO Convention 100 on Equal Remuneration. No staff, whether Singaporean Professors or foreigner, should have been forced to take a 50% paycut just to be able to report the day after “retirement at 55 years old” to teach the SAME subjects to the SAME Classes of students and perform the SAME duties.  That’s the employment abuse addressed by ILO Convention 100, which was ratified by Singapore, was designed to Prevent.

At the international level, the United Nations through its agency, the International labor Organisation (ILO), for which I had been appointed its International HRM Consultant for several years, issued generally accepted guidelines on the fundamental principle of non-discrimination.  These “Guidelines” became International and Local Laws when ratified by the respective Governments.

ILO Convention 111 on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) aims at eliminating discrimination in employment, regardless of the grounds on which it is based or the forms it takes. ILO Convention 100 on Equal Remuneration (and Recommendation No. 90), which enshrines the principle of equal compensation for work of equal value.   ILO Convention 100 was also ratified by Singapore in May 2002.  NTU violated BOTH Core ILO Conventions 100 and 111.

Prima facie, from the preponderance of the facts and the lack of evidence to the contrary, it would appear that hundreds of Singaporeans Professors and Lecturers in NTU were systematically reduced to 45% by 2010 or thereabout, as part of its efforts to satisfy part of the key Criteria of World Universities Ranking standards through unlawful and unfair discrimination in the differential enjoyment of retirement benefits.  

The United Nation Education agency UNESCO had in fact also challenged the validity and reliability of World Universities Rankings, viewing them “of dubious value” that “use shallow proxies as correlates of quality.” 

And is it therefore incredulous that some entrusted with the management of a fine and prestigious University like our NTU would deem fit to break Laws in order to achieve “distinction” at the Top of bogus Universities ranking standards of dubious excellence?    

Singapore’s presence in the Global Universities Rankings invariable lends our hard-earned Reputation for Authenticity and Honesty to mask their lack of credibility, validity and reliability.  Singapore Universities should maintain our dignity and pride, and should no longer participate in any World Universities Ranking scams, regardless of their associations with other “famous” Universities.

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