With contribution by TWC2 volunteer Louise Boulay, based on an interview in September 2020

Every day, workers come to TWC2 looking for help with their problems. Most workers lack awareness of their rights and are often lost as to how to go about making a case.

I meet Md Kawsar and he shares with me his stories — he has two — which illustrate the many problems faced by workers like him. Despite having been here since 2012, he’s not sure what to do.

When Kawsar first came to TWC2, his problem was how to effectuate a transfer. Despite a good salary with a steel fabrication company, he felt the work as a welder was much too hard. He decided his next job would be as a driver even if it meant a pay cut, and for that he took driving lessons — which cost him $3,500. He even chose the night shift for work so that he could take his driving lessons in the day.

The boss of the steel company was more than accommodating. When the company could not offer him a job as a driver, Kawsar and the boss agreed to part ways amicably.

According to Kawsar, he then applied for a new job with a construction company within the window period before the expiry of the Work Permit. Under present rules, if an existing employer is not going to renew a worker’s Work Permit, the worker can look for a new, transfer job between 40 and 21 days prior to the expiry date.

Even though a consent letter shouldn’t be needed since Kawsar was acting within the window period, the steel company nonetheless gave him a letter indicating their consent to a transfer so that Kawsar could get a new job.

The In-Principle Approval for a [new] Work Permit with the construction company came through but it needs to be converted into a proper Work Permit before Kawsar can start work.

There was a problem.  The new employer received a message from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) saying “the Consent Transfer Letter is required. Please resubmit the full set of Application Form back within 7 days”.

Kawsar, and apparently the managers in the two companies too, were baffled.

Was there anything TWC2 could do? Kawsar asked us.

We wrote to MOM hoping to understand what the problem was but the only reply we had was that whatever the problem was, it had been solved and the Work Permit issued. We ended up none the wiser what went wrong in the process, but we’re glad that he could start on his new job.