Straits Times, 14 October 2013, has a story on page 3 headlined “Some runaway workers fake their injuries, say bosses”. The newspaper said that some employers contacted it last month, after it published a story on injured workers running away from dormitories.

ST interviewed bosses of more than 30 firms in the marine and construction sectors, who altogether have more than 200 runaway workers, last week.

They say their reputations have been sullied by the workers who claimed to have resorted to running away after incurring injuries, to escape alleged threats by their employers to send them home.

Mr Wong Chan Ching, managing director of Sin Norm Engineering, said, “I have never owed any of my workers any salary and never threatened to send them home. Yet they insist on running away.”

According to bosses interviewed, the problem is said to be worsening. From one to two cases each year, each boss has had an average of six workers who refuse to stay in dormitories after reporting injuries.

SPG Marine director Lim Tek Seng says some lawyers have encouraged the workers to fake the accidents by promising them big sums in work injury compensation.

The bosses also say the workers ran away because they wanted to moonlight and earn more money. A number of them have caught these workers doing odd jobs in markets and home renovation projects. Workers can earn about $60 – $80 a day doing these jobs compared with about $30 a day working for their employers.

The bosses called on the Ministry of Manpower to prosecute workers lodging fake claims. In response, the ministry said that employers would need to produce “evidence beyond reasonable doubt” that the worker had intention to cheat.

Straits Times quote TWC2’s Debbie Fordyce, who told the newspaper that staff of law firms help runaway workers rent bedspaces in Little India shophouses and workers earn a commission when they refer injured counterparts to law firms. Arguing that more can be done to educate injured workers to go to MOM instead of lawyers, “Doctors should be familiar with the work injury compensation process so they can educate workers. Fliers with information on help channels should also be placed in hospitals and clinics.”