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MOM’s response to media queries on Sime Chong Construction workers’ salary arrears

18 December 2012

  1. Since November 2012 when four Chinese workers working for Sime Chong Construction Pte Ltd lodged salary claims at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), MOM’s labour relations officers have been working to resolve the workers’ salary arrears. At the same time, we have been investigating the company for Employment Act infringements.
  2. MOM’s labour relations officers have been on site at the Yishun worksite today (18 Dec 2012). Our preliminary investigations show that some 20 Indian workers did not turn up for work today, as they had not received their November salaries which would have been due by 7th Dec. These workers did not previously approach MOM on their salary issues. The company, assisted by the main sub-contractor Asiabuild, is currently working to pay the outstanding salaries to the affected workers within the next 24 hours.
  3. MOM takes a serious view of employers who do not comply with our employment laws. It is an offence under the Employment Act not to pay their workers. If convicted, they could be jailed up to 6 months and/or fined up to $5,000. If the company were solvent, the company will be also made to pay the outstanding salaries. In the unfortunate circumstance that the company was not financially solvent, it is possible that salaries may not be fully paid. This could happen regardless of whether the workers were local or foreign. Such business risks are present in any employment relationship. This is true also in many leading jurisdictions internationally. When the employer is unable to pay or becomes insolvent, MOM will also explore various avenues to help workers with some relief payment. This includes getting assistance from the principal contractor if there is one. MOM hence finds it surprising that Yahoo! chose to only highlight the workers’ side of the story that the Ministry "would not be able to do anything" or that workers would face repatriation "without having their owed salaries recovered." For serious Employment Act breaches, MOM will take action against the employer, which could include barring them from hiring foreign workers in future and prosecuting them.

    Update as at 18 December 2012 at 2330hrs
  4. MOM’s investigations have found that there were 28 workers who were not paid their November salary. 25 of them have since been paid on 18 Dec as at 11.30pm. The remaining 3 were absent, and will be paid when they report to work on 19 Dec.
  5. These workers exclude the PRC workers who are on Special Pass and had earlier lodged their claims with MOM.