By Fuxiong

Many stories on this website have documented the difficulties workers face in the period following a work accident. Denial of medical treatment, efforts by employers to repatriate them against their will, or attempts to deny that the accident even occurred (thus foreclosing any chance of compensation for the resulting permanent incapacity) are common accounts from workers who approach TWC2 for help.

Md Saidur Rahman’s story illustrates yet another problem, one that shows how, even at the final phase of a work injury compensation process, more complications can arise. More battles must be fought by the worker to secure justice. His problem is that of the dollar amount of compensation.

Following his injury on 24 September 2013 to his left shoulder — he has difficulty fully lifting the arm now — he has received treatment and nearly completed the compensation claim process. Medical professionals have assessed that he has “five percent” loss of functionality.

“This one everybody agree,” Saidur says, telling me of the status of this assessment. The employer, the insurer and Saidur have all agreed to this “five percent” assessment. However, this figure, representing a degree of incapacity, needs to be converted into a monetary value for compensation purposes. How it is done is via a formula that takes account his his age (representing the length of working life he has left) and his earning power. For the latter, the formula simply uses his previous salary.

And that’s where his problem began.

“My salary, one month have $1,500, $1,600,” he tells me. The figure is inclusive of overtime, which is why it varies somewhat from month to month. “But assessment only say my salary $650. This not right.”

By ‘assessment’, he means the letter that MOM sent him informing him of his five percent disability. This letter also indicated that the percentage will be converted to dollar compensation on the basis of a $650 monthly salary. By applying the lower figure of $650 a month instead of $1,500 or $1,600 which he says is the true figure, the proposed compensation is much lower — less than half — than it should be. Saidur objected to the assessment on this basis.

I ask him whether he will be able to prove that his salary used to be in the region of $1,500. He is confident he can. He says he has pay slips that show his gross salary. Moreover, his monthly salaries were paid into his bank account, so there should be a record of such payments. He whips out his ATM card to make his point, adding, however, that the card is “expired” because the account has been closed.  “I nearly one year not working, so where have money?” After the injury, his work permit was cancelled and he has been put on a Special Pass to legalise his continued stay in Singapore for medical treatment.  However, MOM’s Special Pass forbids him from working and earning any income.

Nevertheless, if he can retrieve previous bank records — that is, if he can afford to pay the bank for a record search — it may still be helpful to his case.

The importance of pay slips and bank records in helping a worker secure just compensation is the chief reason why TWC2 has been campaigning to make these mandatory by law. To date, the Ministry of Manpower has not budged. Unfortunately, many workers are still paid in cash and not provided with any documentation of their salary calculations. Consequently, if they are injured, it will be extremely difficult for them to challenge the compensation amount should it be understated.

Where did the figure of $650 as his salary come from? Saidur doesn’t know.

I ask TWC2 vice-president Alex Au, but he says he can only speculate in the absence of known facts. Based on what we know of the injury reporting process, he says, the employer has to state the worker’s monthly earnings as one of the items to be declared (to the ministry) when making an incident report. “That’s perhaps where the figure was first mentioned.”

Was it deliberate under-reporting, in order to reduce the compensation payable to Saidur?

“We can’t jump to that conclusion,” he cautions. “These things can happen as honest mistakes especially if the form is submitted by a junior staffer. It may be that the basic salary was given instead of the gross salary which includes overtime pay.”

Indeed, Saidur recalls that when he started working for his company about four years ago, his basic salary then was $23 a day, which roughly works out to about $600 a month.

Whether or not that is what gave rise to the $650 figure, Alex reiterates TWC2’s main point: Making it mandatory for employers to issue detailed, itemised payslips and to pay salaries through bank is essential for obtaining a fair outcome.

Saidur is asked to make his way to TWC2’s office where he will get a consultation with a social worker who will help him organise his evidence and communicate them convincingly to MOM, but “I go already last week, ” he says. “I show Karno bai four salary paper, and he send to MOM.” Karno is the social worker he met;  ‘bai’ is Bengali for ‘brother’, used as a term of friendly endearment.

Saidur seems to be in good hands.


A day after this story was published, Saidur received a letter from MOM:  They accepted his objection (conveyed through TWC2 social worker Karno) that his average monthly earnings was not $650, as originally submitted by the employer, but about twice that. We’ll chalk it up to another success in TWC2 helping workers.

However questions remain:  Why did the employer submit such a low figure that had no relation to the truth? Does MOM consider this an honest mistake?