TheOnlineCitizen welcomes the following press release from Ministry of Manpower. We will follow up on this MOM press release along with our special focus on the treatment of foreign workers this week.
11 January 2009
Employers to Pay Salaries on Time; Provide Proper Accommodation and Upkeep
Workers to Report Arrears Early; Allow Time for Claims Resolution
MOM has been investigating into the salary claims and housing conditions of foreign workers of Tipper Corporation, Gates Offshore Pte Ltd and Goldrich Venture Pte Ltd. MOM would like to provide an update on how these cases have been resolved, and to advise employers and workers in relation to such matters.
UPDATE ON CASES
2 The salary arrears of the 276 foreign workers from Gates Offshore and Goldrich Venture have been fully paid on 9 Jan 2009.
3 Similarly, 421 foreign workers under Tipper Corporation have accepted an offer to settle their salary arrears through instalments. Some 160 of them received their first instalments on 9 Jan 2009.
4 MOM has also informed the workers that they can choose to return home, or to be placed on a list of foreign workers available to be hired by other employers.
5 MOM will be prosecuting Tipper Corporation for failing to pay the salaries of its workers on time. Similar action will be considered for Gates Offshore and Goldrich Venture once investigation is completed.
6 MOM will also be prosecuting Tipper Corporation, and its two sub-contractors, S1 Engineering and UPNB, for their involvement in the illegal deployment of foreign workers hired by Tipper, to other companies. This is an offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
7 All five companies under investigation have been barred from hiring new foreign workers.
Accommodation & Medical Care
8 In November 2008, as part of MOM's routine inspections of foreign workers' accommodation, the dormitory used by Gates Offshore and Goldrich Venture at 468 Tagore Industrial Avenue was checked and found to be non-compliant. The dormitory operator was told to cease operation or to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals. The employers were warned and ordered to relocate their workers to an approved dormitory. As a result, more than 50% of the workers had already been relocated by 15 Dec 2008. The remaining workers have until 21 Jan 09 to move out, failing which prosecution action will be initiated against their employers.
9 MOM is currently investigating allegations that Gates Offshore and Goldrich Venture failed to provide medical care to workers who reported sick.
10 MOM will not hesitate to take action under the Employment Act (EA) or the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) against employers who fail to pay salaries on time, or fail to upkeep and maintain the foreign workers they have brought in.
11 Failure to pay salaries on time is an offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Employers who fail to pay their employees could be fined up to $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both. If necessary, MOM will pursue prosecution action against the companies, their owners and the directors, even if the salaries are eventually paid up.
12 Employers who fail to upkeep and maintain their foreign workers, including providing acceptable housing and appropriate medical care, will be prosecuted under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Errant employers can be charged and fined up to a maximum of $5,000 with respect to inadequate upkeep and maintenance of each foreign worker.
13 Workers are strongly advised to report any instances of salary arrears early, before the arrears accumulate. This will help facilitate quicker resolution of the problem, before it escalates.
14 Upon receiving any report of salary arrears, MOM will in the first instance explore if the parties can arrive at a mutually acceptable settlement. In most cases, this has proven to be an effective approach, resulting in a high rate of recovery of arrears and serve to protect the interest of the workers. However, the process cannot be immediate and will take some time. This is because the employer may be facing a cash flow problem, which is heightened during an economic downturn. Time will be therefore be needed for an orderly resolution of the dispute.
15 Workers are assured that MOM is committed to seek a fair resolution to their dispute. They should refrain from taking matters into their own hand, but work within the framework under Singapore's labour laws.