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Try Our Best to Help Workers Recover Owed Salaries

  • Lianhe Zaobao (01 August 2009) : Try Our Best to Help Workers Recover Owed Salaries
  • Lianhe Zaobao (21 July 2009) : Reawakening Fairness and Justice in Singapore Society
  • Lianhe Zaobao (27 July 2009) : Security Officer's Difficulties in Recovering Salary Arrears


Try Our Best to Help Workers Recover Owed Salaries 
- Lianhe Zaobao, 01 August 2009

      We refer to the letters by Mr Guo Linshen ("Re-awakening fairness and justice in Singapore society", ZB, 21 July 09) and Mr Leong Yah Poh's letter ("Security Officer's Difficulties in Recovering Salary Arrears", ZB, 27 July 09).

2.   The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) seeks to help workers recover their owed salaries expeditiously through the Labour Court. When a claim is lodged, the Assistant Commissioner for Labour (ACL) convenes a hearing to inquire into the claims. Orders are issued if the claims are substantiated. If the employer fails to comply with the Order, the claimants may enforce the Order at the Subordinate Courts through an application for writ of seizure and sale. The Ministry would assist them with the preparation of the necessary documents required by the Subordinate Courts.

3.   Whether an employer is prosecuted for his offences depends on the circumstances of each case. Between January 2008 and May 2009, 36 employers were convicted for offences under the Employment Act and another 21 employers are currently facing prosecution before the courts. While MOM does prosecute recalcitrant employers for failing to pay salaries, it would not be appropriate or effective to do this for all cases.

4.   In Mr Guo's case, the Labour Court had ruled in favour of Mr Guo and ordered the employer to pay the salary arrears. The company failed to fully settle all arrears as it was in financial difficulties. Mr Guo was then advised to have his Labour Court orders enforced at the Subordinate Courts but Mr Guo did not do so. The Ministry would have been in a better position to help Mr Guo if he had lodged his claims earlier, before any sale of the company's assets. Proceeding with the next step of enforcing the order then might also have enabled him to recover the salary arrears from the sale of the remaining assets in the company.

5.   As for Mr Leong's case, the Ministry started investigations against the company after the company failed to comply with the Labour Court orders. As the ex-employer was also involved in another case of salary arrears, the process took longer. The employer was charged on 16 July 2009 for failing to pay salaries to employees in two of his companies. The cases are currently on-going and MOM will continue to keep Mr Leong updated on developments in his case. MOM will also assist Mr Leong with his request to obtain a replacement Security Workforce Skills Qualification Certificate from the Workforce Development Agency.

6.   Workers are advised to lodge their claims with MOM promptly, to improve the chances of successfully recovering the salary arrears.


Reawakening Fairness and Justice in Singapore Society
- Lianhe Zaobao, 21 July 2009

Referring to a ZB commentary on "justice and fairness", a ZB reader recounted how he and more than 60 others were owed salaries when their company folded more than three years ago. After lodging reports with MOM and a long wait, the employer was finally charged in the Labour Court. The company was ordered to settle the salary arrears and a payment schedule was drawn up.

However, the company was subsequently sold to a small Malaysian stakeholder at a nominal sum of $1. In addition, the employer also managed to sell off the company's fixed assets worth more than $400,000 and left. Further statements were taken from affected workers when MOM planned to prosecute the company. However, the workers did not hear from MOM thereafter. Only upon asking did the workers found out that MOM had decided not to prosecute the company. The investigation officer did not reveal the reasons why the prosecution action was dropped.

Concluding, he could not fully agree with the view that Singapore is a society where justice and fairness prevail.


Difficult to Get Back The Salary Arrears for Security Guards
- Lianhe Zaobao, 27 July 2009

The writer said that he was owed one month of salary when he was working as a security guard in 2006. He said that the security company have always owed workers salaries and has been fined before. The worker and a few of his colleagues complained to MOM in January 2007. They were owed a total of $23,411.

His salary claim was heard by the Labour Court on 3 April 07 together with 10 other employees. During the hearing, the company representative admitted to the salary claims and was ordered by the Labour Court to pay the salaries within 14 days. The employer however defaulted on the order to make payment despite MOM's reminder letters.

The writer stated that he had made several checks with MOM on the case status. His latest correspondence with MOM was in April 2009 and claimed that MOM informed him that the case is complicated and is still under investigations. He wanted to know why it was so difficult for local employees to recover their salaries and wondered why the investigations took so long. The writer also enquired whether NTUC could issue his course certificate as his ex-employer failed to return it to him.