MOM’s response to TWC2 article “Even experienced workers have bound hands”
TWC2’s article “Even experienced workers have bound hands” addresses important issues of kickbacks and underpayment but is based solely on the account of migrant worker Kamruzzaman without a fact-check with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). MOM takes a serious view of such offences – we will investigate cases that come to our attention and take appropriate enforcement actions against errant parties. MOM has dedicated communication channels for NGOs to clarify case facts with us. Hence, it is disappointing that TWC2 chose to publish inaccurate articles without checking the facts with MOM. MOM’s investigations reveal a different picture from that presented by TWC2.
Claim 1: Kamruzzaman’s employer demanded kickbacks from him and enforcement of the law was neglected.
Fact: MOM investigated the worker and the company’s Human Resource department for possible kickbacks allegedly demanded from Kamruzzaman and found no evidence to substantiate this. In his statement to MOM, Kamruzzaman said that there was no kickback involved and he had obtained his job through a friend without having to pay any fees to secure employment.
We reject TWC2’s view that enforcement of the law was neglected. MOM takes a serious view of kickback offences. Between 2016 and 2020, MOM investigated an average of 960 cases of kickback offences annually. An average of 102 employers were taken to task each year – about 80% of them were issued warnings or composition fines while the remaining 20% were charged in court. For cases that were prosecuted, about 90% were successfully convicted. Those convicted can be fined up to $30,000, jailed for up to two years, or both.
We have also stepped up our engagement and education efforts to migrant workers through the Assurance, Care and Engagement (ACE) Group and the Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) Ambassadors to detect such cases early. Migrant workers are aware that they can approach MWC, ACE or MOM to seek help.
Claim 2: There was not enough work for Kamruzzaman; his employer should still pay salaries but this was not the case
Fact: MOM’s investigations found that Kamruzzaman’ s former employer had ongoing projects throughout the period of his employment with the company. Other workers of the company interviewed by MOM did not raise issues regarding lack of work. In fact, they even had to work overtime.
Further investigations also revealed that Kamruzzaman did not report for work for 20 out of 36 working days, from 17 January to 28 February 2020. He did not produce a valid medical certificate or gave reason for his unexplained absence, even though he is required to do so. This was corroborated by accounts from his former co-workers, including his worksite partner. Kamruzzaman’ s salary was therefore pro-rated by the company.
Claim 3: Kamruzzaman was not allowed to work while awaiting resolution of his injury compensation claim
Fact: Injured workers are usually not permitted to work while on Special Passes, so as not to risk aggravating their injury as it may complicate their on-going claims. During the period of their hospitalisation or medical leave, workers are paid Medical Leave wages during their absence from work, for up to one year.
MOM would like to clarify that Special Pass holders who are no longer on medical leave and wish to work while waiting for the resolution of their work injury claims can do so under the Temporary Jobs Scheme (TJS). They will need to obtain a doctor’s memo certifying that they are fit to work before approaching MOM for assistance. Hence, if Kamruzzaman was certified medically fit to work, he could have approached MOM to do so.