A director of a construction company was fined $20,000 for taking money from his foreign workers. Demanding and accepting such kickbacks is illegal.

Lin Pinghe 54, took the money from twenty workers from China in 2011, reported the Straits Times in its story on 3 June 2014 (pictured above). He pleaded guilty at the hearing.

Lin was also sentenced to four weeks’ jail in a separate case of abetting another worker, Chinese national Weng Yanqiu, in her quest to get an S pass using a forged academic certificate.

The news report also mentioned that

Forty other charges of making false statements and failing to ensure that the foreign employees remained under the company’s direct employment were considered during his sentencing.

This suggests that the workers were “released” to work illegally at other jobs, with Lin and the company (for which he was in direct charge of operations) collecting money from them to provide them with legal cover for their work passes. The prosecutor told the court that Lin and the company received between $4,500 and $7,000 from each of the twenty construction workers at the start of their employment.

When TWC2 noticed that the news story did not mention whether restitution had been made, we enquired with MOM. In response, MOM told us that although it wasn’t reported, it had been said in open court that that the accused has “paid over” all the monies which he took from the workers. Those workers still in Singapore received full restitution. Those workers who have left and can no longer be located, the money is to be donated to Thong Chai Medical Institution for charitable purposes.

We felt the news report could have taken the trouble to add this point because otherwise other bosses might calculate it to be profitable to take in $136,000 in kickbacks and pay only $20,000 in fines.

Separately, on 6 June 2014, the Straits Times reported that five construction companies are facing charges for breaking employment laws. In the story ‘5 firms charged with breaking labour laws‘, the newspaper said,

JK Integrated, Ng Brothers Scaffolding, Shanghai Tunnel Engineering, Shanghai Tunnel Engineering (Singapore) and Straits Construction face 179 charges in total under the Employment Act, the Ministry of Manpower said yesterday.

Alleged offences include not paying workers on time, not granting paid leave their workers were entitled to, making unauthorised deductions and denying daily-rated staff of paid annual leave and public holidays.

Their cases will be heard again later this month or early next month.

While it is encouraging that MOM is taking action in these cases, TWC2 knows of many other similar cases where we do not hear of any prosecution. These alleged offences are widespread in the construction industry. If even large companies like Shanghai Tunnel Engineering (Singapore) — which face 82 charges —  are up to such behaviour, what more smaller contractors.

Many stories on this website tell of workers similarly affected.