Most interns are required to do some research during their period with Transient Workers Count Too. Coupled with their exposure to casework, this is to enable them to gain an in-depth understanding of at least one facet of the many issues migrant workers are faced with.
Undergraduate Wang Shimeng interned with us in December 2017 and January 2018. Besides seeing the many cases that came through TWC2 during those weeks, and assisting our social workers with case documentation, and even accompanying workers to appointments with the authorities, she was also asked to examine more closely the specific question of overtime pay: what do workers understand of the rules? How do employers record overtime and compute overtime pay? What does the law say, and how is it enforced?
She found that many workers have only a tenuous grasp of the rules, and therefore, of their rights. Employers play fast and loose with them, and even when workers are aware that they are at the losing end of employers’ mis-recording or mis-calculation, they generally feel powerless to protest, at least for several months.
She also used this exercise as a springboard for a longer and wider discussion about salary issues in general, based on her conversations with workers coming to TWC2 for help. The result is an excellent review of the situation as faced by low-wage migrant workers in terms of their right to fair salary and access to justice.
TWC2 takes in two to four interns at a time. We prefer that they come from different disciplines. If you’re interested, please write to [email protected]
For accuracy’s sake, we note here that the report contains two small errors:
Firstly, unlike what is stated in the report, the court does not send Letters of Demand or take any other enforcement action. Enforcement action is the responsibility of the claimant.
Secondly, Sunday and public holiday pay is more complex (and ambiguous) than simply “two times basic salary”, as indicated in the report. It is this complexity that makes it hard for employees to understand exactly how much they should be paid; leaving them vulnerable to underpayment. Even interns with high levels of education find it hard to grasp the rules.
However, we will leave the intern’s report as it stands since it is her report and we do not wish to put words in her mouth.