This is the unedited version of a letter sent to the editor of Straits Times Forum on September 30, 2011, in relation to an article that appeared in the paper the same day (see summary):

Dear ST,

It is good to see that action is being taken against employers who fail to pay workers’ salaries and those who make unauthorised deductions from migrant workers’ pay. (Elena Chong, ‘Six charged with failing to pay salaries’, ST 28/9/’11) It is to be hoped that this will act as a deterrent against others doing the same things.

Unfortunately, these practices are all too familiar to societies such as TWC2 that work with migrant workers. In 2009, our help desk received 412 complaints about salary issues from workers, concerning non-payment or under-payment. In 2010, we received 855 complaints about salary issues and illegal deployment – most of those were about non-payment, underpayment and improper deductions. From 2008 and the end of 2010, we received complaints against 16 companies that illegally charged workers for the renewal of their contracts. Migrant workers labour for long hours and low pay; at the very least, they should be paid what their due salaries, including the overtime rates laid down for all workers covered by the Employment Act.

The article mentions that, for non-payment of salaries, a first offender can face a fine of up to $5000 and/or a jail term of up to six months on each charge. It is not clear whether the offender would also be obliged to pay the money outstanding to the workers; it would be little comfort to them to see an offender punished but not to receive what they are due.

Yours faithfully,

John Gee
Immediate Past President