By TWC2 volunteer Leong Siao Wearn, based on an interview in July 2020.
30 August 2019 — one month into his new job at RDA Construction Pte Ltd, twenty-five year old Nodia was in a gondola with his work partner 17 floors above street level, painting, when the accident occurred. It happened so fast that the details were a blur.
The pain, however, that Nodia felt all along his left arm from his wrist to his neck was all too vivid, as was the ache on the right side of his back. He was sent back that day to rest in the dormitory, and there he remained for three days before going to see RDA’s “company doctor”.
By the end of September, Nodia had been referred by that doctor to a family clinic, and subsequently sent on to a polyclinic. Doctor after doctor gave him certificates of medical leave as well as prescriptions for medication, yet the pain did not subside. Nodia was unable to go back to work. He could barely lift a water bottle with his left arm.
Nodia had received only one month of pay from the employer, and now medical bills were piling up. He went to see the management, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. How could they not admit responsibility for the debilitating injury he had suffered whilst in a gondola at work? How was he to pay for the medication and physiotherapy he needed, let alone the MRI that he had been told he had to get at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, if they continued to deny the accident?
Nodia was lucky enough to have friends in Singapore from the job he had had for three years prior to his move to RDA, as well as his brother and a cousin in Singapore who all chipped in to pay for his medical treatment. Frustrated and increasingly worried, Nodia finally turned to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), who called for an investigation and summoned his supervisor and other RDA employees for questioning.
“Everyone— my manager, even my work partner — told MOM, no accident, no problem”, recounted Nodia, shaking his head in disbelief.
Unbeknownst to him, RDA’s own fate was hanging by a tenuous thread. On 26 March 2020, Nodia’s Work Permit was cancelled; RDA Construction had closed down. MOM put Nodia on a Special Pass so he could stay on in Singapore till the injury claim process concluded and in June, Nodia was able to go for a medical assessment to determine the degree of permanent disability. Based on the doctor’s findings, MOM will compute how much he should get in insurance compensation in accordance with the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA).
By this point, Nodia has spent almost $3000 on medical treatment, including his MRI which had cost exactly “One thousand, seven hundred ninety-seven dollars and ten cents”, he repeats emphatically.
He has kept all his hospital receipts carefully. Hopefully, even though the company has closed down, there is still the work injury insurance he can claim against.
As Nodia awaits the outcome of his medical assessment, he is hopeful that he will be entitled to a fair compensation and a ticket to go home. In Pabna, Bangladesh, his wife of just over twelve months is anxiously awaits his return.
When asked what he anticipates for the future, Nodia shakes his head. “No plan”, he says. Given the unpredictable fortunes of his last twelve months here in Singapore, who can blame him?