False employment contract showed a lower salary, claim 11 workers

Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Articles, Stories

L to R: Shahin. Milon Kazi, Azizul and Awlad

They had complained to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) that their employer had forged (in their words) their employment contracts, but ministry officials said they had to support their allegation with a police report. The problem was, they weren’t sure how to make a police report. Of the group of eleven, one had earlier tried, but was turned away by the police because, as he put it, “the police said I had no proof.” Going by his experience, they rest were stuck, not knowing how to proceed further.

TWC2 Treasurer Alex Au then stepped in, telling the four men who were ready to proceed with a police report that he would take them to a police station and ensure that they got the necessary attention. They could then go back to MOM with a copy of the police report to better support their complaint against their employer.

At the police station itself, the exercise turned out to be uneventful, albeit a little time-consuming, taking some 2 hours to complete the process. Since their English was not good, Alex proof-read the report the police took down (in English) to ensure that it accurately reflected what the men had said. But by lunch time, they were armed with a freshly minted copy of their police report, ready to go to MOM in the afternoon to add that document to their case file.

The back story was like this: After several months (years in the case of the longest-serving two) during which they had to put up with large deductions from their monthly paychecks, the men could tolerate it no longer. They strongly felt that the deductions were unjustified. But after lodging their complaint at MOM, the employer told MOM that the men’s computations of owed monies were in error. The deductions were not as large as they claimed because the men’s basic salary was not as high as they claimed. The men had said their basic salary was $750 a month, promised to them verbally at the start of their contracts, but the employer produced written employment contracts that indicated $650 a month.

“We never saw those pieces of paper before,” Shahid told TWC2. “That is not my signature above my name. I didn’t sign it.”

The others said likewise with respect to  ’employment contracts’  that purportedly bore their names. They said they were sure that the employer had created those documents only when MOM contacted the company. It was important that the men make their position as clear as possible otherwise they would be seriously disadvantaged in the mediation process. Thus arose the need to make a police report.

Alex touched base with the men a couple of weeks later to find out how their cases were proceeding.  “We had to go to Kim Seng,” they said, referring to the satellite branch of MOM located on Kim Seng Road. That was a good sign, because it is at Kim Seng that offences are investigated and enforcement action considered. That their cases had been referred there indicated that the ministry was taking their complaints seriously.

Other than that, however, they had little else by way of a progress report, which was not surprising because criminal investigations can be lengthy affairs. Then how were the men to survive in the meantime? What about the agents’ fees they had paid upfront to secure their jobs, which were now prematurely terminated? How would they recover those fees and still send money back home to support their families?

“Did you apply for work under the Temporary Job Scheme?”Alex asked them. Generally, employees able to make a prima facie case of employer wrongdoing and who may be required to stay on in Singapore as potential prosecution witnesses, are admitted into the scheme.

“Working now,” Milon Kazi said. It was good to hear that not only had they been put into the scheme, they were taken up by a cleaning company very quickly. They seemed happy for now, and it was good to know that just helping them make a police report would make such a difference to the trajectory in their lives.

TWC2 is an organization that is dedicated to assisting low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty. We are motivated by a sense of fairness and humanity, though our caseload often exceeds our
means.

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