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Transient Workers Count Too understood from indirect sources that the Ministry of Manpower originally had no plan to prosecute employer Woolim Plant Engineering for failing to pay correct salaries. For background to story, see Part 1 and Part 2. The reason given was (we heard) that the workers “didn’t want to press charges.” TWC2 continued to press for action to be taken since the documentation provided by the workers was unusually good. We did not agree that workers’ consent was needed to press charges and it would set a very poor example if despite clear evidence, MOM still takes no action.

A press release issued a week ago confirmed that MOM has changed its mind. Woolim has now been charged with making a false declaration to MOM, stating a certain salary in its work permit applications, while paying the workers a much lower salary.

There is also another section of the Work Pass Regulations (Paragraph 6A, Part IV of Fourth Schedule) that forbids employers from reducing the basic salary or increasing deductions from what have been declared in the work permit applications, but this is classed as an administrative infringement, liable to a fine by the ministry, but not to criminal prosecution. It is not known whether MOM is also taken action on Woolim on this point.

Here is the press release by MOM:

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Woolim Charged For Falsely Declaring 15 Foreign Workers’ Salaries

11 March 2014

  1. A Singapore branch of a Korean company – Woolim Plant Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd was charged in the State Courts today with 15 counts of making false statements to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in connection with the applications of work passes, by declaring salaries that were higher than the amounts that were actually paid to the foreign employees.
  2. Between 15 January and 8 March 2013, Woolim allegedly made false statements to the Controller of Work Passes in its applications for work passes for 15 Bangladeshi employees. In these applications, Woolim allegedly declared that each foreign employee would be paid a monthly salary of $800 after taking into account food and accommodation. On the basis that the information declared was true and correct, the applications for work passes were approved.
  3. MOM’s investigations revealed that the foreign employees were paid much lower salaries as compared with the amounts that were declared in their respective application forms. Woolim allegedly made the false statements in order to secure the work passes for the foreign employees. The act of knowingly furnishing false information in work application is a serious offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA).
  4. The case against Woolim has been adjourned to 8 April 2014.
  5. MOM is currently investigating other similar false declaration cases involving 75 employers and 230 foreign employees. MOM has stepped up on enforcement in this area following the raising of maximum penalties for false declaration under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) in November 2012. Offenders will be severely dealt with – if convicted, they can be fined up to $20,000, and / or imprisoned up to two years for each charge.
  6. It is the responsibility of all applicants to make accurate, complete and truthful declarations to the Controller of Work Passes. Making a false declaration to the Controller through the fraudulent submission of salary information to circumvent work pass eligibility criteria is a deliberate attempt to deceive MOM.
  7. Members of the public with information about employment-related offences can call the MOM hotline at (65) 6438 5122 or e-mail at mom_fmmd@mom.gov.sg. All details will be kept strictly confidential.