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Better outcomes for workers who come forward early

  • The Straits Times (26 Aug 2017): Better outcomes for workers who come forward early
  • The Straits Times (23 Aug 2017): MOM's advice out of step with reality

Better outcomes for workers who come forward early

- The Straits Times (26 Aug 2017)

  1. We refer to the letter (“MOM’s advice out of step with reality”, 23 August) by Mr Alex Au.
  2. The reality is that foreign workers who delay the reporting of salary non-payment face higher risks of recovering little or nothing at all from their errant employers.
  3. In 2016, more than 4,500 foreign workers approached Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for help with their salary claims. Of those who did so within three months of non-payment, more than 90% were able to fully recover their unpaid salaries following mediation or adjudication.
  4. In contrast, among those who reported their claims close to a year later, fewer than 20% recovered their salaries in full. Whatever their reasons for postponement, the delay caused the amounts owed by the employers to snowball and made the workers’ situation even more dire.
  5. Although such workers constitute a small minority, we urge organisations like TWC2 to encourage them to come forward sooner than later.
  6. Mr Au has called on MOM to “crack down on high recruitment costs” to reduce the barrier against early-reporting.
  7. Our laws already cap the amount of agency fees which a Singapore employment agency can collect from foreign workers. We also enforce against any collection of kickbacks by parties in Singapore. Just last week, a company was charged with 21 counts of collecting kickbacks from six of his foreign workers, and faces a fine of up to $30,000 and/or two years’ imprisonment per offence if convicted.
  8. However, what happens in their home countries is beyond our jurisdiction. Even so, MOM continues to engage their embassies and relevant counterparts when we are made aware of malpractices in their home countries.
  9. Mr Au further suggested for MOM to disallow employers from considering other foreign workers until the pool of workers already here awaiting resolution of their salary claims has been reduced.
  10. This proposal is impractical given the diverse needs of employers and the varying readiness of the workers to be re-deployed.
  11. Instead, we continue to work with organisations like the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) and Migrant Workers’ Centre to improve employment facilitation. For example, SCAL has introduced the Foreign Workers Directory System that seeks to put employers in touch with available workers.

MOM's advice out of step with reality

- The Straits Times (23 Aug 2017)

  1. Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) agrees with the Ministry of Manpower that workers should come forward and report salary abuses as early as possible (Foreign workers should lodge complaints without delay; Aug 19).
  2. However, the reality is that the workers are not always able to do this.
  3. Almost all work permit holders would have paid thousands of dollars to get their jobs.
  4. To lodge a report with the MOM would mean writing off this sunk cost.
  5. For a worker, the more rational thing to do is continue working, in the hope that the company's fortunes improve and he is subsequently paid.
  6. The ministry needs to get serious and crack down on high recruitment costs, whether incurred in Singapore or abroad. This may involve redesigning the entire recruitment system to cut out middlemen.
  7. So long as recruitment costs are not addressed, saying that the ministry would have taken action against the employer had the workers come forward immediately is akin to blaming the victim for the ministry's inaction.
  8. The MOM's statement that workers in salary dispute cases would have been offered the chance to find other employers is also meaningless.
  9. The reality is that only a tiny fraction of these workers actually manage to find new jobs.
  10. This is largely because it is much more profitable for employers and their agents to recruit directly from the source countries than to take workers already in Singapore. This, again, is tied to the issue of high recruitment fees.
  11. TWC2 urges the MOM to monitor the pool of foreign workers already in Singapore and looking for jobs, and restrict hiring from abroad until this pool has shrunk to a certain size.
  12. Doing so helps retain experience and skills within the country rather than open the door wide to inexperienced new workers.