Video by Jonathan Ang, August 2017
Hosen Khalilur’s experience is typical of the cases that come to Transient Workers Count Too. After sustaining a back injury at work and being placed on medical leave, company officials make it difficult for him to stay on in company accommodation. In Hosen’s case, he tells us in the above interview that he was on occasion physically hit.
He soon moved out of the dormitory, but this meant he had to pay rent himself for a bunk in a shared room.
The financial equation does not work out. He is entitled to medical leave wages for the 77 days of certified medical leave, and this money can help pay the rent, but his claim process has stretched for fifteen months (and counting). That’s over 450 days. For those other days when he is not certified for medical leave, he has no income at all. Hosen was placed on a Special Pass after the employer cancelled his Work Permit, and a condition of the Special Pass is that he is not allowed to take up any paid employment.
Forbidden to work, yet required to stay on in Singapore to await settlement of his injury compensation claim, it is a financial disaster for him. And for his family. In some cases — though we don’t know yet how Hosen’s case will end — the compensation amount paid to the worker is almost all used up just to pay back friends who had loaned the injured worker money to pay rent during the waiting period.
In a separate post, TWC2 explains the law regarding housing for injured foreign workers. Unfortunately, the law is not altogether clear though on balance it appears to be the employer’s responsibility to provide, and to bear the cost.
MOM itself advises workers that if employers do not provide accommodation and food, workers should report so to the ministry. This remedy is impractical. The first problem is that living in a company dorm is extremely stressful when employer and employee are in conflict. Which injured worker would want to put himself in a place where he can be assaulted at will?
There is a tendency to neglect the problem, on the argument that it was the worker who quit the company dorm on his own accord. However, to cite only the final act of the worker, while ignoring the deliberate, orchestrated pressure applied by company officials on him, appears as selective reasoning.