Hossain Mohamed Dulal holds up his cellphone and shows us a a picture that he took of his left hand. It’s bandaged after surgery, but his thumb is a sapphire blue. He says that day his boss “catch my hand and squeeze” it. “Very, very pain,” he says of that moment. “I cry”.
It doesn’t account for the blue, though.
“He hold my hand and make thumbprint on paper,” Hossain explains. Ah, it’s the ink.
What was written on the paper?
“Nothing,” the 23-year-old says emphatically. “It blank paper”.
Oh dear, trouble ahead for his work injury claim.
The injury occurred on 3 December 2013 at around 10:15 am. He was sent to Tan Tock Seng Hospital where he had an operation on the evening of 4 December and sent back to his sleeping quarters around 1 am.
Hossain looks a bit puzzled when this writer uses the word ‘dorm’, and it takes a few more questions to establish that he wasn’t housed in a dorm; the workers’ quarters were at the worksite.
He had barely drifted off to sleep when he was rudely awakened by three men at around 6 am, who marched him to a waiting lorry that took him to the company’s office. There, two men shoved him into a room where the boss — “He Tamil man,” says Hossain — was waiting. The third man stood guard outside the door. It was in that room that the boss expressed his annoyance with the injury incident by squeezing the bandaged hand with some force. And where Hossain’s thumbprint was applied to a blank piece of paper.
“Then manager put hand in my pocket and take out my wallet,” recounts Hossain. “He take out my work permit.”
Retrieving a work permit is usually a sign that the employer intends to cancel and surrender it to the Manpower ministry.
Once let out of his room, Hossain fled to his friend’s place in Yishun for safety, leaving his possessions behind. All he has at this very moment is, literally, the clothes on him.
Now is when TWC2’s emergency kits come in handy. At our office, we have ready-packed several bags of donated clothes (sorted into small, medium and large sizes) together with towels and toiletries, and we take one down from the shelf for Hossain.
Before coming to our office, Hossain has already lodged an accident report and a work injury compensation claim at the Ministry of Manpower. In addition, he has also lodged a salary complaint. We look into his In-Principle Approval document and see that his employer has declared his basic salary to be $468 a month. But, since starting work in late September 2013, a little over two months before the accident, Hossain has only received $724, a print-out from MOM indicates.
“How much did you pay your agent for this job?” we ask him, in the hope of understanding the financial difficulty he must be in.
“Seven thousand dollar,” he says.
That’s not good. This young man is a long, long way from breaking even, let alone supporting his family back home in Bangladesh.