“I go back after two day,” says Samiul, evidently happy that he’ll be seeing his family again within 48 hours. Well, then, a quick debrief has to be done to see how his case ended.
His debrief turns out to be a pleasant surprise because he then gives us a story that shows how things work out well, despite the misfortune of a work injury. His example shows how the Manpower ministry’s processes should work. The pity is how rare this kind of story is; many others would envy his “luck”.
Samiul Basir Siraj Uddin, 29, has been in Singapore since 2006, working for the same company in Loyang, Top Great Engineering and Marine, a shipbuilder. He seems to have been quite happy to stay with the same employer, getting gradual pay increases from $16 a day when he started, to $19.20 a day last year. The pay’s low, but not out of the ordinary for this sector. He’s renewed his work permit several times, and — another pleasant surprise — has not suffered pay deductions for “renewal money”. Lots of other workers, by contrast, report employers illegally demanding $1,000 to $1,800 for renewing their work permits.
Unfortunately, his right index finger was badly hurt on 20 June 2011. To fix it, Samiul has had two operations: the first to insert a metal splint, the second, to remove it. His employer covered his medical expenses without him needing to ask.
However, the healing took several months and unable to work, he was not paid.
He grew so desperate financially that he took on a job as a housing block cleaner even though he had been placed on a special pass — his work permit had either expired or been terminated — which contained a prohibition against working.
He was barely on that job for two weeks when he was caught.
Samiul told his case officer that it was absurd to blame him for working illegally when he was getting no income at all. “I tell officer, ‘I no have money, no working my shipyard job, no have money for eating,’ and I say, ‘how I live like this?'”
He had an understanding case officer. Samiul was put on the ministry’s Temporary Jobs Scheme. Before long, he got a job as a dormitory cleaner at $18 a day — “but not much overtime,” he laments. He stayed on that job for eleven months till his medical case was resolved.
The officer also worked on what the employer Top Great owed him for his period of medical leave.
“So, in the end, did you get your MC pay?” TWC2 asked him.
“Yes, have,” he said. “Company give me $19.20 a day for six or seven month. Same [rate] as salary.”
“When did the company pay you?”
“Around January or February.”
“How much in total?”
He started to scratch his head, trying hard to recall. Finally, he ventured, “about $2,500.”
This figure doesn’t tally with “six or seven month” of salary, but he can’t explain why. One gets the impression that he was almost rolling in money at that point in time (relative to his dire poverty just two months earlier), and didn’t care to keep track of his cash.
This spunky guy also went back to his illegal employer to ask for his wages for the week or two that he had worked as a block cleaner. Despite being in trouble with the ministry for having employed Samiul, the boss was honourable and paid him the full $30-a-day wages due.
The surgical scar on his finger is now nearly invisible — Changi General Hospital seems to have done a good job — but the finger cannot curl fully. For this residual permanent damage, Samiul was awarded four points (out of 100), which translated to a compensation of over $4,000.
“Money got already,” he said with a hint of Singlish.
“I go back after two day.”
Except for the hiccup at the start — his MC wages should have been paid promptly each month and not delayed six months — we can find very little wrong with the way his case has been handled. That’s how things should work. Through the long wait for assessment for permanent incapacity and compensation, Samiul remained economically productive though a temporary job (one that is not too demanding on his hands and fingers), and received a steady income.
He didn’t have to depend on charity and he didn’t have to worry his family back home.
TWC2 asked to look at his MOM appointments card one last time, and noted the name of his case officer: Chris Loh.
“You had a good case officer,” we tell Samiul, “If you have a chance, say thank you to him before you leave.”
And from what we’ve heard, he had a good employer too.
Samiul flew home on 16 January 2013.