By Eugene Teo

Islam Mohammad Jahidul was a machine operator at a marine company’s workshop. On 5 November 2015, Jahidul’s index finger suffered a deep cut while he was operating a metal cutting machine, sending blood spurting in all directions. An agonizingly long wait ensued; it was only three hours later that the gash was stitched up at the company’s designated clinic. Jahidul was sent straight back to his dormitory after, and was told nothing, except that he should rest for the time being.

If it feels as if this description is missing something, it’s because it is. Shouldn’t there have been some sort of medical certificate indicating how long Jahidul should refrain from working, or how many days of medical leave he has been awarded due to the stitching? There might have been, but Jahidul would never find out anything about it. He tells me his manager took away any and every document that transpired from that day, effectively sealing the incident from external scrutiny.

The day following his injury, Jahidul was in tremendous pain, and so asked his manager to take him to the clinic to have his finger looked at. His manager told him to wait for another two days, because that is supposedly when his follow up appointment was scheduled to be at. “Supposedly” is the key word here, because the follow-up appointment never materialized. Another five days went by without any news, before a frustrated and dejected Jahidul made the decision to leave the dormitory for good, burning his bridges with his employer.

Salary problem too

Jahidul has good reason to be displeased with his employer. On top of what he considered a callous attitude following the injury, he hadn’t been paid his wages for two months as well. As of now, he is staying in a room that is paid for by the money his mother transfers to him. He had paid an agent $10,000 to work in Singapore, to provide for his family back home. Ironically, it is now his family that is providing for him, when it really should have been the other way round.

Jahidul sought a lawyer’s help to submit a case report to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). MOM then asked him to inform his manager about the report, so that a salary mediation process could begin. The manager, upon hearing about Jahidul’s report, was adamant that he would not turn up for the mediation. In fact, he shouted over the phone at him, saying: “You go back Bangladesh better!” True to his word, the manager did not turn up for the meeting. Jahidul was eventually put on Special Pass, a status he has held for half a year now.

As of the date of the interview, the salary issue does not appear to have been resolved.

When migrant workers come to Singapore to work, they leave a lot behind to come here, not least their social and family networks. Shorn of these support buffers, they depend heavily on their employers, trusting that they would do what’s best for them. But unfortunately that isn’t always the case, and there are many times when the situation of the worker has been manipulated to the employer’s advantage.

Workers then turn to lawyers, like Jahidul did, to protect their interests. But as described by other articles at this site, lawyers too can have their own agenda, not always congruent with their clients’ interests. How Jahidul’s case will turn out is as yet unclear. For now, all he can do is to cling on to a glimmer of hope that he will receive his owed wages and be compensated for his injury someday.