Saturday, 30 August 2014

Baseless claim about non-payment of foreign worker salaries

MR ALEX Au's letter ("Salary non-payment a big issue for migrant workers"; Monday) paints an inaccurate picture.

Through our outreach efforts, we encourage workers with salary claims to come forward to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Last year, the ministry received about 3,000 salary claims involving foreign workers. This is less than 0.5 per cent of work permit holders here.

Independent research companies, using professionally accepted methodologies, have corroborated our view that migrant workers feel they are generally well treated here. Interim findings of a survey conducted by Nexus Link showed that 90 per cent of foreign workers are satisfied working here.

We are therefore curious as to how Mr Au could make the sweeping statement that around 130,000 foreign workers may be either partially or not paid salaries at all. We trust he realises that it is not appropriate to listen only to the employees' side of the story to bolster his claim of widespread non-payment of salaries.

In adjudicating a salary claim, MOM listens to both sides in the dispute. Should an employer be found to be errant, we will take tough action, such as debarment from employing foreign workers. Where the offence is particularly egregious, they may also be prosecuted.

Other than enforcement, MOM also helps affected workers to recover their salaries. For the majority of substantiated claims that the employer is in a position to pay, MOM has ensured that the foreign workers receive their claims in full.

If the employer is facing financial difficulties and cannot pay, foreign workers may choose to seek adjudication with MOM, or settle the claim through conciliation. Some workers have chosen the latter, because they were aware their employers were just not able to make full payment.

At no point is the worker pressured into accepting a settlement. It is unbecoming of Mr Au to cast aspersions on MOM officers who work tirelessly to help all employees, including foreign workers, resolve their salary claims.

MOM is and remains committed to protecting and upholding all workers' rights and interests. This includes allowing victimised workers to change employers and continue working in Singapore while their cases are being investigated.

We also earlier announced the mandatory issuance of itemised payslips within two years. Employers of work permit holders are already required to pay their workers' salaries through direct transfers into their bank accounts if workers request it.

Then Yee Thoong
Divisional Director
Labour Relations and Workplaces Division
Ministry of Manpower
ST Forum, 29 Aug 2014

Salary non-payment a big issue for migrant workers

WHILE it is important for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to act strongly against poor accommodation for foreign workers ("Big foreign worker dorms faring poorly"; last Tuesday), Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) hopes MOM shows the same determination over salary payments.

In our experience, complaints of salary non-payment are seldom satisfactorily resolved from the workers' point of view.

Foreign workers are here to earn enough to support their families. Being paid in full and on time is thus critically important to them.

From a client-centred perspective, MOM should pay equal or greater attention to salaries as to housing. 

A recent TWC2 survey found that about one in three workers is either paid less than what is due him or not paid at all. We estimate this affects about 130,000 foreign workers.

In nearly all instances we encounter, workers tell TWC2 that MOM makes little effort to obtain full settlement. Workers feel pressured to accept a fraction of what they are owed.

Their negotiating position is undermined by MOM policy that prohibits them from looking for new jobs.

Remaining jobless makes it very hard for workers to hold out and assert their right to salary arrears.

Failure to make detailed itemised payslips and payment through banks mandatory leaves many unable to prove that they have not been paid correctly.

Moreover, in the majority of the cases that come to us, the delinquent employers are not reported to have been prosecuted.

Unless MOM uses the threat of prosecution from the moment workers complain, employers do not feel any need to settle in full.

One of the conditions of the $5,000 security bond is that employers must pay salaries on time.

Even when MOM threatens to forfeit the bond, MOM policy is to obtain only about $2,000 of it to pay the affected worker, despite him being owed $7,000 or $10,000. Why not give all $5,000 to the worker?

The present framework that sees small partial settlements as "success" creates a moral hazard: It rewards breach of contract and dishonesty, and lets employers off the hook when they break the law.

Alex Au
Transient Workers Count Too
ST Forum, 25 Aug 2014

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