Was there no prosecution in 2016 for non-payment of salaries?

Posted by on January 25, 2017 in Articles, Facts, research, analysis

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As 2016 came to a close, TWC2 trawled through the website of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to see what prosecutions have been listed there through the year. MOM issues press releases whenever an employer has been sentenced in court.

TWC2 found twelve mentions in MOM’s website through 2016. The list is shown further down.

What is interesting is that the two most common issues that TWC2 sees in our casework — salary non-payment, and work injury — are not represented in this list of twelve prosecutions.

Salary non-payment

Non-payment of salary is clearly an offence under the Employment Act. MOM gets about 4,500 salary claims each year from foreign workers, according to a Straits Times report 19 January 2017 (the article is archived within this linked post).

In 2016, 375 cases were brought to TWC2’s attention by foreign workers, quite a typical number that we receive each year. Based on TWC2’s casework experience, virtually all the claims are genuine. The employers concerned had not paid salaries on time. Section 21 of the Employment Act makes it a criminal offence not to pay basic salaries by the seventh day after the salary month, or overtime pay by the 14th day after.

Section 34 of the Employment Act states that for first-time offenders, the penalty shall be “a fine of not less than $3,000 and not more than $15,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both”.

However, despite the large number of cases, there was no prosecution of an employer for salary non-payment among the list of twelve prosecutions on MOM’s website.

Workplace injuries

Workplace injuries are by their nature, accidents. However, every now and then, we come across cases where the employer failed to purchase insurance, which then leads to considerable difficulty obtaining compensation for the worker. Failure to purchase insurance is an offence under the Work Injury Compensation Act, yet, in this list of prosecutions below, there isn’t any such instance.

Nor was there any prosecution of an employer for safety violation, which tends to be linked to workplace injuries.

A common thread through most of the prosecutions listed below is that they are for violations where the government is the “victim”. The accused would be someone flouting some licensing rule or other. No doubt workers also benefit when MOM cracks down on employers who violate ministry rules; for example, employment scams and demanding kickbacks, for which there were prosecutions in 2016, hurt workers too.

But why was there no prosecution for salary non-payment when by the ministry’s own admission, there were thousands of such cases in 2016?

Here is the list extracted from MOM’s website as at 31 December 2016:

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Prosecution of employers by MOM in 2016 (source: www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases):

27 December 2016: Man fined for $30,000 for unlicensed EA activities Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/1227-man-fined-for-unlicensed-ea-activities

7 December 2016: Mastermind of employment scam jailed 42 months Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/1207-mastermind-of-employment-scam-jailed-42-months

1 December 2016: Construction company fined $74,000 for housing foreign workers in unapproved accommodation Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/1201–construction-company-fined-74000-for-housing-foreign-workers-in-unapproved-accommodation

23 November 2016: Managing director fined $60,000 for collecting kickbacks and banned from employing foreign workers Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/1123-managing-director-fined-60000-for-collecting-kickbacks

1 November 2016: Trio charged for conspiring to fraudulently obtain work passes for an F&B business to later supply these workers to another eatery Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/1101-trio-charged-for-conspiring-to-fraduently-obtain-work-passes

11 October 2016: Managing director charged for collecting over $105,000 in kickbacks Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/1011-managing-director-charged-for-collecting-over-105000-in-kickbacks

21 July 2016: Yen’s studio executive director fined $72,000 for falsely declaring salaries in work pass applications and renewal applications Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/0721-yens-studio-executive-director-fined-72000-for-falsely-declaring-salaries

8 July 2016: Company director fined $21,000 for falsely declaring salaries in work pass applications Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/0708-company-director-fined-21000-for-falsely-declaring-salaries-in-work-pass-applications

1 June 2016: Dormitory Operator Fined $300,000 For Overcrowded Foreign Workers’ Accommodation Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/0601-dorm-operator-fined-300000-for-overcrowded-foreign-worker-accommodation

17 April 2016: Company Director Jailed 27 Months for Bringing in Foreign Workers Without the Intention to Employ Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/0417-company-director-jailed-27-months

7 March 2016: Mastermind of Work Permit Scam Sentenced to 16-Month Jail Term http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/0107-mastermind-of-work-permit-scam-sentenced-to-16-month-jail-term

4 March 2016: Two Construction Companies Fined $180,000 in Total for False Declaration and Foreign Worker Housing Offences Link: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/0304-two-construction-companies-fined-for-false-declaration

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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