By Stéphanie Psarski

It is sad, how some humans can treat other humans.

On 26 July 2014, construction worker Hossan slipped on oil and landed heavily on his back. The company doctor gave him Panadol and two days’ medical leave. But at the end of the two days, the pain was still very bad, he asked to go to hospital for more treatment.

His boss refused. Surely, getting medical treatment is a basic human right. Instead the boss threatened to send him back to Bangladesh.

“Boss, [I] cannot go back,” Hossan pleaded. “My family give a lot money to the bank,” he said, trying to explain the huge sum owed to the bank.

The boss eventually agreed to send him to hospital but with one condition: Hossan must not mention the workplace accident. Just tell the doctor about the pain, he commanded.

Hossan obeyed. When he went to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where he got an MRI scan and medicine, he never mentioned that the pain came from a work accident. Still, the doctor gave him fourteen days’ medical leave.

That night, his boss came over, angry that the medical leave was so long.  According to Hossan, “You should have told the doctor it was a little pain only,” he scolded.

Hossan eats with TWC2’s Cuff Road Project, and loves talking to our volunteers, but to resolve his case, he has chosen to rely on a lawyer. He decided on this after that night when the boss came storming in.

He asked around among his friends and one of them recommended a lawyer, but it came out during our interview that he didn’t think to ask about the fees. Nor did the  lawyer (actually, from TWC2’s experience, it would be more likely the legal assistant, not the lawyer himself ) bother to tell him. Hossan thinks the lawyer will work for free. Maybe this lawyer will be very generous, but maybe again Hossan will have to pay a lot of money.

He already has huge money problems.

Wanting to come and work in Singapore because he couldn’t get a job in Bangladesh, he went through a training centre to which he had to pay about S$5,000 dollars. Not having this kind of money himself, he borrowed from friends and family. But he told himself: It will be OK because he will soon have a job with a nice salary in a nice country…

He was very happy when the agency announced they found him a job. But when he received the in-principle approval and asked for the plane ticket, the agent told him that he had to give him $4,000 dollars more.

What could Hossan do?  He had already paid $5,000 and he desperately needed to earn money for his family; and one day get married. And the only way to have that is to come to Singapore. So he went to the bank to take a loan. Added to what he owed his friend and family: $9,000 in total. This is how much he had to earn to pay back the loans before he could use the salary for his family’s well being.

But no matter what, Hossam was motivated and finally arrived in Singapore in August 2013. With a basic salary that was only $384 a month, he had to work lots of overtime to buff up the salary. For one year, he says, there was no particular problem. Salaries were paid on time.

However, it was still stressful. His family would call nearly every day, worried because the bank was chasing them over the loan. Hossan worked and worked, but the salary was ridiculously low, and the money was never enough.

Then it stopped altogether when he slipped and fell. Now he can’t send any money at all. The only light at the end of the tunnel is the insurance.

But meanwhile he is thankful to TWC2 for the food, and the friendship.