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Foreign-worker salary disputes are dealt with speedily: MOM

  • TODAY (24 February 2017): Foreign-worker salary disputes are dealt with speedily: MOM
  • TODAY (20 February 2017: More errant employers should be prosecuted for not paying salaries
    Foreign-worker salary disputes are dealt with speedily: MOM 
  • - TODAY, 24 February 2017
  1. The letter “More errant employers should be prosecuted for not paying salaries” (Feb 20) paints a misleading picture of the Labour Court process and how the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) assists foreign workers.
  2. Of the 4,500 salary-related claims involving foreign workers that the Ministry received in 2016, the vast majority (95 per cent) were resolved through mediation.
  3. Most cases (95 per cent) took no longer than a month. All mediation is conducted only with the consent of both the employer and the worker. No worker is compelled to accept a mediated outcome that they feel is unsatisfactory. Indeed, more than 700 foreign workers declined mediation to pursue their cases at the Labour Court in the past three years.
  4. For cases that were heard at the Labour Court, more than 90 per cent were concluded within three months.
  5. The remaining were complex cases that took longer for various reasons, such as parties requesting more time to provide evidence, or because they involved breaches of other laws, such as the Penal Code.
  6. Contrary to the writer’s claim, there was no Labour Court hearing in the past three years that took two years to resolve. The letter’s assertion that foreign workers with ongoing salary claims are not allowed to work is also untrue. More than 2,200 foreign workers were allowed to change employer in the past three years.
  7. The Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics’ (HOME) report of a survey on non-payment of salaries to foreign workers is based on a biased sample, since workers who approached Home are more likely to be those with employment issues.
  8. In contrast, the 2014 Foreign Worker Survey conducted by an independent survey firm randomly polled more than 3,000 workers and found that 99.4 per cent of workers were not owed salaries at the point of survey.
  9. To suggest that employers in Singapore routinely underpay foreign workers presents an inaccurate picture of the situation.
  10. In our experience, whether a worker could successfully claim the full salary amount owed depends on how early he comes forward to lodge a claim.
  11. Any delay will cause the amounts owed to snowball. Meanwhile, the financial situation of the employer could have deteriorated further. To help our foreign workers, Home should advise them and help bring their cases to MOM as early as possible. This will improve the chances of successful recovery of unpaid salary claims before their employers reach dire financial straits.
    More errant employers should be prosecuted for not paying salaries
  12. - TODAY, 20 February 2017
  1. I refer to the report “95% of salary-related claims resolved last year” (Feb 7).
  2. Though the Ministry of Manpower resolved more than nine in 10 salary claims, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) has received feedback from workers that they usually got a fraction of what they were entitled to under the Employment Act when their disputes were mediated.
  3. Most workers are unwilling to pursue the full extent of their claims because this would mean having the Labour Court hear their disputes, which could take several months or even up to a year to resolve. The longest case Home saw took two years.
  4. As workers are not allowed to work to fend for themselves and support their families while waiting, they accept much lower amounts so their cases can be resolved quickly.
  5. Most workers who approach HOME have a salary complaint.
  6. In our report Wage Theft and Exploitation among Migrant Workers in Singapore, we interviewed and surveyed 2,009 workers who told us that they were not paid, were paid less than what was contractually agreed or had wages deducted and withheld.
  7. Employers routinely ignored overtime, public holiday and rest day pay entitlements.
  8. The ministry received 9,000 complaints last year against 4,500 employers who failed to pay their workers, and there were 158 convictions over three years — an average of only 53 convictions a year.
  9. We urge the ministry to increase the number of prosecutions to strengthen deterrence.
  10. With regard to ensuring that all workers have work-injury insurance coverage, the Manpower Minister explained that it was not possible to comb through every insurance policy and cross-check with the movement of a company’s staff.
  11. As the ministry already has a system, however, to ensure that employers buy a security bond before employment is guaranteed, extending this to hospitalisation and work-injury coverage should not be difficult.