Letter to the Editor,
Straits Times
November 21, 2011

The article “Wanted Posters for Missing Foreign Workers” mentions workers who disappear just before the expiry of their work permit, suggesting that they would prefer to remain in Singapore to work illegally. It’s too simplistic to assume that every report of a missing worker means a man who plans remain to engage in illegal work, but it should also be noted that illegal work can in fact be far more profitable for the worker ($60/day with no deductions as opposed to $20/day).

At TWC2, we note that many of the men who are reported as missing or having absconded have indeed left the workplace due to threats or attempts at repatriation to avoid paying the full salary or to avoid providing medical treatment for workplace injuries. These men confirm to us just what the article describes: repatriation firms are called in to assist with locating the worker and arranging for his repatriation. The employer has the right to terminate the work permit for any reason, which puts the man in a difficult and vulnerable position when he has a justifiable claim. If the man is unable to lodge a salary claim or a work injury compensation claim due to his detention and speedy repatriation, the employer saves quite a lot in time and expense and accident-free man-hours, which explains his use of these services.

Deborah D Fordyce
TWC2 exco member