While we try to help every foreign worker who comes to TWC2 with a problem, our volunteers are realistic enough to know that some workers are not blameless. In such a situation, we modulate the help that we extend.

About a month ago, a guy — let’s call him Sham (not his real name) — came to us saying that his Work Permit had expired but the employer would not or could not renew it. Sham was also told that he could not look for a new job either. Since it is policy that every construction worker who completes his permit term but whose employer does not wish to renew the permit is free to look for a new job without first going home, so, on the face of it, it didn’t seem fair to him.

Could TWC2 help appeal his case?

There had to be a reason why he was an exception and not allowed to look for a new job, so we probed further. Finally, he revealed that some months earlier, he had been caught with a fake supervisor certificate. Instead of attending a course and undergoing a test to obtain the Building Construction Supervisor Safety qualification, he had paid $100 to get it. It’s not clear whether he was approached with this offer or he went out to look for one.

Sham added that after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told his employer about it, the employer downgraded him from construction supervisor to general worker. It may be that MOM instructed the employer to do so.

Many other workers were also involved in this and similar scams. Some men paid $200 rather than $100. This scheme is not just the work of a single tout, but the modus operandi of a number of training schools. MOM issued a media release recently about their successful prosecutions: a number of culprits (directors, principals and trainers with these schools) have been sentenced to ten-month jail terms.

From having dealt with other similar cases, we know that MOM would not immediately terminate the Work Permits of the men caught with fake certificates, but merely put them on notice that further renewal will not be allowed. This is relatively lenient punishment for participating in such a scam, for by doing this, these men have put the safety of other workers at risk.

TWC2 agrees with the approach taken by MOM in dealing with such cases. We have a responsibility to the lives of other foreign workers too.

We declined to make an appeal for Sham. We cannot condone fake training courses and fake certificates, and we think the penalty imposed on him was more than fair. Instead we advised him that the chances of overturning MOM’s decision is extremely poor even if he appealed, and he’d be better off looking for his next job in other countries.