By Chow Zhi Ying

“Every time I ask for MC money, company say later, later, later…” Shah Newaz recounts. ‘MC money’ is the monthly wage that companies should pay workers who are on medical leave, as mandated by the Work Injury Compensation Act, which also provides a set formula.

His story at first sounded like a good example of how an employer should respond when a worker meets with an industrial accident. Until it came to the question of money.

Shah Newaz Hossain injured his thumb August 2012. It was fortunate that at the time the accident occurred, the project manager and supervisor were both on scene, and they were quick to get him to a clinic.

Shah Newaz: “4.30 pm, my finger accident. 5 pm, my company lorry send me to clinic.”

After an x-ray there, the clinic doctor said he should be sent to a hospital, and the company did so promptly. He was warded, with the supervisor staying with him till late into the night, showing loads of concern.

“Company give guarantee letter, show to hospital, also pay for appointment,” he tells me. A letter of guarantee usually has to be provided by the employer as guarantee of payment, before a hospital will commence treatment for the patient. In this respect, the company did all that was expected of it, without delay. As indicated by Shah Newaz, the employer has also covered the costs of his follow-up medical appointments.

But when our conversation turns to the subject of his current financial situation, it’s a starkly different picture.

“I get salary on first day [of] October, after that no more,” he reports.

That was his September salary. Then his job (and work permit) was terminated in October, and he was put on a Special Pass. Having a Special Pass means that it is illegal to work. He is however entitled to ‘MC money’. The law says it should be two-thirds of a worker’s average monthly earnings (i.e. taking into account his average overtime pay) for as long as he is on medical leave, up to a maximum of one year.

But as he tells us, his employer “no pay MC money,” a situation he describes succinctly as “no like.”

By his account, it is estimated that he is owed roughly $1,200 in medical leave wages for the two months since his accident (to the date of the interview). The owed sum grows with each passing month, but, “every time I ask for MC money, company say later, later, later…”

Employers are required to make payment each month no later than the worker’s usual pay day.

Now that he has been terminated from work, he has left his company dormitory and seeks accommodation elsewhere in Little India. When asked how he is able to afford the rent, Shah Newaz replies, “Borrow money from friend, I tell them wait for MC money I pay you, but my MC money don’t know when come.”

“Left two dollar in wallet… Also borrow one,” he replies, then impulsively decides to pull out the lonely bill for a photograph.

Look how wealthy I am, Shah Newaz says

Look how wealthy I am, Shah Newaz says

He is smiling because he is in the company of friends, but being broke is not a happy circumstance. And the debt is not just what he owes to friends from whom he was borrowed rent money.

“I pay $8,000 to Bangladeshi agent, $6,000 in Singapore to get work here. Another $4,000 in 2011 to renew contract.” And for those princely sums, he got a construction job where “I work here, one day eighteen dollars.”

He’s been here for close to five years, but it is still doubtful whether he has made back the large sums paid to employment agents. And right now, his entire life is on hold. He’s already 28 but still without a wife. “Not married,” he says, explaining: “No money, come to Singapore, looking for job for money.”

Two dollars in his wallet wasn’t what he was expecting.