By TWC2 volunteer Severin B, based on an interview in December 2020

It feels to Arsad that the boss really doesn’t care anymore. After the accident and injury, he is seen as useless and the employer cancelled his Work Permit — which means that even after recovery, Arsad will have no job to return to.

After ten years in the same company, Arsad would have liked more support coming from them.

The same month he was injured, (September 2019), Arsad opened an injury compensation case at the Ministry of Manpower, but it is taking a long time. It is now more than a year later and he is broke. He needs help to live decently and get food, clothes and a bed to sleep in. His employer owes him over $8,000 in medical leave wages which, as required by the Work Injury Compensation Act (Section 17(1)(b)), should be paid on a monthly basis; it should not be accumulated for months and months.

Ten good years

It was in 2009 when Arsad first left his home country to work for Chong Sin Huat Construction. It’s his first and only job in Singapore and he put in ten years of loyal service.

Arsad was quite happy with his career progress as he increased his salary. Since his father died in 2011, he has had more responsibility, sending money home to sustain four younger brothers and two younger sisters.

His salary, starting at about $650 (including overtime) in 2009 for 10 hours of work a day, went up to about $1,000 a month in 2019 — an increase of 50 percent — as he gained experience and the trust of his boss.  In the later years, he managed to send about $400 to his family every month.

How the salary was calculated was quite complicated. In the last few years, Arsad was paid by the task (what Arsad calls “project”) rather than by the hour, which gave him more freedom to operate, more motivation and less pressure from the boss. Arsad really liked this way of working as he could sometimes go back to the dormitory earlier and manage his schedule as he liked. He enjoyed the trust that the company put in him. On the other hand, the boss liked the fact that he could rely on a multi-purpose guy who could complete a task on his own without need for supervision. This was a win-win situation.

And then on 13 September 2019, he hurt his back at the site and it was all over.

From being a proud success of a migrant worker, he became destitute, relying on charitable help from TWC2 for food, medical bills, phone cards, rent and transport subsidies. It shouldn’t be this way. The Employment of Foreign Manpower Act requires employers to provide basic support to ex-employees for the duration of the injury claim, but as Arsad’s case shows, the law can feel like empty words.