By Jas Kaur

Abu Younus Mohammad is no novice to work in Singapore. So why is it that a man who has experience and in fact, skills, is sitting here with no job?

Younus has held three jobs in Singapore. Firstly, he did a painting job for two years, for which he had paid a placement fee to an agent in Bangladesh of approximately $8,000. Next, he worked with another company as a rigger/signalman for a year. He paid $2,500 for this placement, to another agent back home. In his third and most recent job, he worked with glass company and was again out of pocket $3,800 for this third placement. In total, as one can see, he has paid princely sums by Bangladesh standards to work in Singapore.

But after four months in his third job, all this came to a halt.

His misfortune took place on 31 October 2015. He was installing a bracket when he took a fall, ending up with a leg in a hole. Receiving a deep cut from a scaffolding clip, he fainted.

“Many blood,” he tells me. He learnt that from seeing a photo taken of the injury.

Younus’ supervisor, along with the company driver, took him to a small clinic in Sembawang to consult a private doctor but the cut was deemed too deep and would require stitches at a hospital. He was then taken to Khoo Teck Puat hospital in Yishun. There, the wound was cleaned and stitched up (seven stitches). He was also given two injections. Finally he was prescribed several tablets and then sent back to the company dorm to rest.

Problems begin

It was there the real trouble began, says Younus. His supervisor perpetually dug into him, wanting him out (whether just out of the dorm or out of Singapore altogether is not quite clear) if he was not going back to work immediately. Younus was still in immense pain, having hurt his back from the fall too.

The interesting part about this point in the story is that while Younus believed he was on medical leave — and thus that the supervisor had not right to ask him to return to work — he was never actually shown his own medical certificate.

After ten days of misery and insult, he could bear it no longer and moved out. With no source of income, he has since been subsisting on small sums sent to him by his aged parents and gestures of kindness from friends.With this small sum, he has managed to rent a bunk in cheap lodgings. But without money, he has had to postpone a follow up hospital appointment from January to March.

His mother is 65 and the father is 70. The father is now too old to work. Younus is managing to get by with the meals that TWC2 provides through our Cuff Road Project. His distress is palpable as he describes to me how much his mother has cried over the situation.

Younus’ tale is not an uncommon one. He struggles to get medical treatment and medical leave wages from his employer, even though he is entitled to them by law. He was constantly badgered to return to work even before he had recovered. Even at the very beginning, right after the accident, he had to endure a long wait for treatment when his employer took him to a small clinic instead of directly to hospital. Bosses have a preference for using small clinics instead of public hospitals, as they believe they have more sway over the private doctors, and things are more likely to go their way. For some migrant workers, however, nothing ever seems to go their way.