Just like Islam Rafiqul’s case which was told in the Straits Times last week, Sujan Ahmed too is unable to collect the Labour Court award he has been given. Sujan’s employer is simply refusing to pay up and the Ministry of Manpower suggested that he should apply to the State Courts for a Writ of Seizure and Sale. This process costs Sujan at least $1,000. He does not this kind of money, having been out of work for 19 months while waiting for the compensation issue to be concluded. In any case, the newspaper reported a ministry spokesperson saying:

“However, it would be important to have realistic expectations of what can be recovered, for example, by considering whether there are assets to be seized,” she said.

— Straits Times, 23 Jan 2017, Injured Bangladeshi worker unable to recover $9k from boss

His story appeared in the Monday 23 January 2017 edition of the newspaper. The difference is that whereas Islam Rafiqul’s case is one of salary non-payment, Sujan’s is one of failure to pay disability compensation. But both stories illustrate the futility of collecting Labour Court awards when the employer simply refuses to pay and MOM applies no pressure.

Sujan fell three metres from a ladder in May 2015, hurting his back and fracturing his right elbow. Despite treatment at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) the injury did not heal fully, leaving him with some permanent disability.

In June 2015, he filed a Work Injury Compensation claim. A year later, TTSH confirmed that he had suffered 10 per cent permanent incapacity of his elbow and back.

Based on the assessment, the MOM awarded him $11,625 in compensation, an amount that should have been covered by compulsory insurance. As it turned out, Mr Sujan’s employer had not bought him a policy.

Mr Sujan had worked for Mr Suriakumar, the sole proprietor of the company, for a year before he fell, earning a basic salary of $750 a month, which he used to support his wife, mother and a younger brother.

— ibid.

When the payment didn’t come through, Sujan obtained a Labour Court order instructing the employer to pay up. The employer then gave him $2,480.03 and apparently told him he would get no more. That left a balance of $9,144.97 unpaid.

In addition, Sujan is also owed about $2,900 more in unpaid medical leave wages and medical expenses; these amounts were not included within the Labour Court order.

Normally, MOM requires employers to demonstrate that work injury insurance had been taken up before a work permit is issued, as well as at each renewal. In Sujan’s case, he joined this employer in June 2014, and his work permit was renewed in June 2015.

It is not known whether this check by MOM was performed or was overlooked, but it turned out that as at 30 May 2015, the date of the accident (which was around the time the work permit was being renewed) there was no valid insurance cover. This does not change the fact that, under the law, the employer is still liable to pay (a) whatever compensation for permanent disability is ordered by MOM, (b) medical leave wages, and (c) reimburse worker for any medical expenses he had paid for himself.

Insurance cover, as required by the Work Injury Compensation Act, is merely to protect the employer’s financial liability with respect to (a), (b) and (c) above. It also acts as assurance that should the employer go bankrupt soon after the accident, the insurer would be there to pay the worker directly.

In the last three years, the ministry prosecuted in court six employers who failed to compensate injured workers, and three employers who did not insure workers.

— ibid.

This works out to prosecuting one employer a year for failing to have valid insurance. TWC2 is now going through our records to see how many such cases we see a year. We are pretty sure we see more than one a year, even though we see only a fraction (about 10 – 15%) of all injury cases in Singapore.

ST20170123_sujan_ahmedIn the meantime, TWC2 is providing free meals and shelter for Sujan.

The Straits Times’ story can be seen by clicking the icon at right.