A New Zealand-based Singaporean, Tan Kong Hwee, has taken the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to court for decreasing his local pension benefits.
He claimed this action reduced the amount he received from his Central Provident Fund (CPF) deposits in Singapore. The CPF is the Singaporean equivalent of superannuation, where employers put a certain amount towards an employee’s retirement with each monthly paycheque.
Tan also sought to bring in Prime Minister John Key as a defendant, alleging that the PM had failed in his duty to correct the injustices given.
A judicial tribunal based in Wellington has ordered that the case be sent for mediation, saying that there was a “clear interest” for both parties to settle informally before going to tribunal.
In October, Tan complained about reductions to his retirement benefits, claiming he was discriminated against as a Singaporean. He felt aggrieved that expats who left Singapore could withdraw their CPF savings while Singapore citizens such as himself could not.
He used PM Key, who used to work in Singapore as head of Merrill Lynch’s Asian foreign exchange, as an example. Prior to moving from Singapore to London, Key was able to withdraw his CPF savings.
In New Zealand, Tan received payouts according to the Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001.
After hearing the case, a three-member human rights review tribunal stated that Tan had no legal basis to bring in PM Key as a defendant and ordered that Key’s name be removed. The chief executive officer of the MSD has been left as the sole defendant.
The case has now been sent to the New Zealand Human Rights Commission for mediation. Progress reports are now required every four months with the first due in April.
In previous cases like this, the MSD has always denied any unlawful discrimination, saying complaints have been about the nature of pensions and not about age, sex, religion, etc.
“MSD had taken the same stance towards all pensions earned overseas,” the commission said in its response to the tribunal.