Sumon has been five years in Singapore, never held his son before

By Nicholas Lee, based on an interview in September 2017 “Men die, company no thinking, only thinking money”. With words like that reflecting the treatment that Miah Md Sumon and his fellow compatriots receive, it is hard to imagine the lives they lead working in a far-away country away from their loved ones. I sit...

When an employer says a worker has ‘run away’, what really happened? Sumon’s story

By Liang Lei, based on an interview in August 2017 Sometimes, when it comes to foreign workers, it is both worrying and terrifying to realize just how much they are at the mercy of the employers, in an environment of lax enforcement and subdued consequences. Drastic measures can be taken at any time against injured...

Fraud committed using ministry letterhead

Sarowar (not his real name) approaches our help desk hesitantly. Despite being in his mid-thirties, he does not exude much self-confidence. Maybe it’s because he knows his English is weak, and what he has to tell us is fairly complicated. However, it didn’t take us long to grasp the nub of the problem: Someone had...

A mookata waiter’s tale

By Liang Lei, based on an interview in July 2017 The raid came. Subbas was on duty that night, and he was arrested. His luck had run out. He would spend a month in jail and, tied to a medieval rack, receive three strokes of the cane, cutting his flesh deeply and bloodily. It would...

Siddik and Rafique’s lives frozen as Freezeland Aircon & Electrical folds

By Jonah Foong, based on interviews in July 2017 In George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, the fictional land of Oceania is ruled by Big Brother, a man of ‘about forty-five’ with a ‘heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features’. While his face is plastered on hoardings, he is never seen in the flesh, and his...

Unpaid workers find company funds diverted

A boss was apologetic that he was unable to pay his employees their salaries on time. But what is interesting is the reason why he couldn’t do so: he had to pay foreign worker levies to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) first. Below are key portions of a transcript of a meeting between the boss (who...

Raiful paid $8,000, job didn’t exist. Initial attempt to lodge complaint rebuffed

By Troy Lee based on an interview in July 2017 In the early hours of Friday, 7 July 2017, Md Raiful Islam touched down at Changi airport, looking forward to start on a new job. By midday, he was devastated. The job did not exist. He had paid about 465,000 Bangladeshi taka (about S$8,000) for...

“Agree to lower salary, or you won’t get your pay,” says company manager

By Wahid Al Mamun based on an interview late July 2017 A lot of things can happen in two months, and Mollah Showrov has learned this the hard way. His right leg is now in held immobile in an orthopaedic boot. I notice how gingerly he seats himself in the plastic chair beside me. Here...

Employer proclaims he lied to ministry, then gets away with paying less in salary

Transient Workers Count Too came across a very interesting statement by Mr Tan Khim Long, director of KBC Engineering Pte Ltd. The company was defending a salary claim by a former employee, a Bangladeshi named Showkat, for short-payment of salary. The case was heard by the Manpower Ministry’s Labour Court in late 2016 and early...

Records of accidents are such a nuisance, aren’t they?

By Namgay Choden, based on an interview in July 2017 With me this evening is Howlader Mohammod Selim, and he tells me about what happened in September 2016. Selim had suffered an accident at work, and was brought to Ng Teng Fong Hospital in Jurong East. After treatment, the doctor asked Selim whether he needed...