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Most employers pay up salary claims fully

  • The Straits Times (5 Sep 2019): Bosses of foreign workers ignore court orders to pay up

Most employers pay up salary claims fully
- The Straits Times, 17 Sep 2019

  1.  Mr Ethan Guo’s letter (“Bosses of foreign workers ignore court orders to pay up”, 5 Sep) does not provide an accurate picture.
  2. Most salary claims by workers are settled by the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM). In about 90% of the cases, claimants receive full payment from their employers.
  3. Only 10% of salary claims handled by TADM were adjudicated by the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT), majority of which resulted in orders to the employers for payment.
  4. Where employers failed to comply with ECT orders, it was predominantly because they were in genuine financial difficulty. However, foreign workers in such situations are not left to fend for themselves. They will generally receive payments from insurers or the Migrant Workers’ Assistance Fund.
  5. Overall, the incidence of wilful non-compliance with ECT orders is low (about 1% of all ECT orders). The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) investigates and prosecutes all such cases.
  6. Early reporting of arrears is critical to improve the chance of full recovery. This is why MOM consistently educates workers to approach TADM as soon as they encounter arrears, and urges Non-Governmental Organisations that assist foreign workers to do the same.

Christine Loh
Director, Employment Standards Enforcement
Labour Relations and Workplaces Division
Ministry of Manpower

Kandhavel Periyasamy
General Manager
Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management


Bosses of foreign workers ignore court orders to pay up
- The Straits Times, 5 Sep 2019

  1. The Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) encounters a problem similar to that of The Association of Women for Action and Research. It has also seen court orders ignored by the employers of migrant workers who are owed wages (Better enforcement of court orders needed, Aug 30).
  2. We are not aware of any consequences to the employer when this happens. Migrant workers who have not been paid their salaries or are underpaid are referred to the Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) when attempts at mediation fail. When the cases conclude in the workers’ favour, many employers do not pay up despite orders by the ECT to do so. The workers are appalled that there is so little regard for court orders and no viable method of enforcement. We understand that these debts are viewed as a civil, not criminal, matter.
  3. There are several debt recovery options, such as bankruptcy proceedings and writ of seizure and sale. But these options are too costly and time-consuming for migrant workers to pursue. A pro bono lawyer whom we consulted summed up the situation: “The fundamental problem is that enforcement mechanisms do not come with any assurance that one will get any money at the end of the process.”
  4. In one recent case, an employer told us he had no intention of complying with the tribunal’s order even though a check with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority showed that his company is still in operation. In another case, the employer did not even appear at the ECT and became uncontactable.
  5. The Ministry of Manpower’s assistance to workers facing such circumstances does little to mitigate their plight. Prosecuting errant employers, for instance, does not help recover any money. Insurance or ex-gratia payouts do not match even half of the amounts owed. And the ability to seek new employment is not assured, even if granted.
  6. Migrant workers believe strongly in Singapore’s legal system and have worked long hours in what should be a fair economic exchange for their hard labour. Being denied their earnings after winning their claim at the ECT is alarming injustice.
  7. Better protection of salary payments and official enforcement of court orders would benefit not just migrant workers but Singaporeans as well, and ought to be a matter of priority.