By Keith W

Workers who have worked in Singapore for a few years tend to know a bit more about their rights. They also know where to get assistance. They are less likely to suffer in silence when their bosses try to take advantage of them.

Parvez Late Sona Miah has been in Singapore for a total of six years. For the first four years, he worked in the marine sector, then transferred to the construction sector in 2011.

On 21 August 2013, he returned to Singapore to join a new job at Falkor Engineering Services, but it wasn’t until 13 September before he was sent to the two-day Safety Orientation Course. This seems at odds with the rule laid down by the Building and Construction Authority that says workers must take the course within two weeks of arrival in Singapore.

Because of that delay, Parvez wasn’t properly deployed to site for the first three weeks. “I do small temp work,” for which he says he was paid “small money”.

It was only after completing the Safety Orientation Course that he was allowed to start on the job fully, on 16 September.

In late September, he discovered that the employer was not going to pay him for the two days he attended the course. The company had recorded those as “days off”. Parvez asked his supervisor why that was so. “Other company, they pay the worker basic salary, because SOC course is must attend one,” he explains his thinking, with a hint of Singapore-accented English — the result of six years here.

“This supervisor, he always scold one,” continues Parvez. “I ask simple question, but he scold me: ‘You thinking what, your father company, ah?'”

The Malaysian Chinese supervisor then lost his temper. Reports Parvez: “He say, if I ask like that, he take gangster and send me back [to Bangladesh].

“Office staff never talk like that, only this man.”

However, things quickly escalated and Parvez was handed an airticket to fly back on 1 October. But no salary was offered.

“I go directly to MOM,” says the worker.

The ministry called a meeting for 17 October with a company representative in attendance. A sum representing the amount owed to Parvez was agreed upon, with the company promising to pay up by 20 October.

“MOM also give me three agents names, for finding six-month job.” This sounds like the temporary job scheme. But Parvez also knows that TJS jobs pay poorly and he’s not particularly interested. In fact, in the previous days, he tapped his connections to locate another construction job. “This new boss, he apply for me already,” says Parvez. He is hopeful that MOM will approve a new work permit for him.

Parvez’s story is quite different from many other workers’, especially new arrivals. TWC2 more commonly hears of workers who are unhappy with deductions or underpayment, but stick with the job for months and months fearing that if they protested, they’d lose the job altogether. Especially when they have invested large sums of money in agent’s fees, they don’t feel they can speak up.

Parvez acted far more quickly once he decided that he couldn’t work under the supervisor. He was more familiar with help avenues, and he was confident he had the connections to locate another job when needed.  Despite the spot of trouble he was temporarily in, he seemed happier than those unable to escape from their jobs.