TOC's Response to MOM Statement on Panasonic Singapore foreign workers

By TOC Team –

TOC notes the Ministry of Manpower’s response to our article of 9 October 2012 entitled “Secret tape exposes Panasonic Singapore’s Employement Agent practices” on 10 October 2012 at 7.32 p.m..

TOC regrets that MOM has chosen to take the view that the purpose of our article is to “undermine public confidence” in ongoing MOM investigations into the practice of Employment Agents (EA) overcharging People’s Republic of China (PRC) workers.

Nothing could be further than the truth. It is TOC’s objective to see that the aggrieved PRC workers are fairly treated and any offences against them thoroughly investigated.

Our article was crafted through several direct interviews with affected parties and relates their account of what transpired in the course of the MOM’s investigations.

In this regard, it is unfortunate that MOM has chosen take aim at the messenger instead of dealing with the issue.

We are disappointed that MOM’s response to the signed agreement exhibited in our article focused on how they had not sighted the document earlier, instead of what this document means.

In addition, MOM seems to imply that the workers and/or TOC have withheld this document from MOM despite the fact that this document supports the claim of overcharging. MOM should more appropriately query if the EA should have disclosed this document to MOM.

MOM should take a neutral and independent stance in investigating complaints. Its conduct in this case, and its response to the TOC article, suggests that improvements can be made in this area.
Now that an agreement detailing the overcharging by the EA has surfaced, MOM should detail the steps it will take in light of the signed agreement that appears, on the face of the contract, to suggest overcharging by the EA in question.

TOC further hopes that MOM can explain in more detail the “supporting documents” the EA referenced in its public statement produced to back up his claim that he remitted a portion of the money to a PRC sub-agent and more fully justify it’s decision to discontinue investigations.

TOC is open and willing to dialogue with MOM in a civil and constructive manner to resolve the issues highlighted in our articles and are willing to share our resources with MOM with a view to prevent the exploitation of foreign workers.

MOM Clarifies Investigation Outcome Involving Employment Agency and Workers from Panasonic Singapore

There have been a few online articles and postings that have distorted the facts and questioned the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) investigation into a case involving foreign workers from Panasonic Singapore and an employment agency (EA). These inaccuracies and allegations have cast serious aspersions on the integrity of MOM’s officers.

Contrary to what was stated in one post, there have been no claims lodged by 90 workers of Panasonic with MOM. Four workers from the company filed a complaint against the Singapore EA in February 2012 at MOM. The workers provided MOM with footage that was secretly recorded from a pinhole camera, that captured their conversation with the said EA. The total footage ran for more than 51 minutes, and came in 8 parts. Our officers scrutinised the video footage extensively and concluded that an investigation was warranted. We then proceeded to call up the EA for an interview. This was in March 2012.

In the video, the workers were shown a copy of the receipt for RMB$45,000 (S$9,000) which led them to conclude this proved that from what they paid as recruitment fees in China, the Singapore EA had received S$3000 per worker as placement fees. This was the crux of the allegations against the EA. During our investigations, the Singapore EA explained that the receipt was actually a record of the transaction between his PRC main agent and another PRC sub-agent. He also added that out of the RMB$15,000 (S$3,000) for each worker received by his PRC main agent, he would receive S$1,000. He also produced supporting documents to back up his claim. There is no evidence to show that the Singapore EA had collected more than S$1,000. Therefore, MOM is unable to proceed further on the alleged over-charging offence under the Employment Agencies Act (EAA). We have forwarded the particulars of the PRC main agent to the PRC Embassy to ascertain if there might be additional information that we could follow up on. However, MOM found that the EA failed to issue receipts to the workers, which is an administrative lapse under the EAA, for which the EA was issued with a composition fine which has since been paid.

TOC also posted a copy of a ‘signed agreement’, dated May 2012, between “some of the workers” and the Singapore EA. This was to support the allegation that S$3,000 was indeed collected by the Singapore EA. This was surprising as the document was never surfaced to MOM during our investigations into the claims by the 4 workers in February 2012. We are curious as to why this piece of ‘evidence’ seemed to be withheld from MOM.

Such unfounded allegations against MOM that attempt to undermine public confidence in our investigations are certainly unhelpful. The Ministry takes all claims and complaints filed by any worker seriously. Each case is dealt with in an impartial manner by reviewing all evidence, and we have never hesitated to take appropriate action against anyone who breaks the law. Workers or members of the public with information on possible offences should approach the Ministry directly for assistance. They can also contact MOM at (65) 6438 5122 or e-mail [email protected]. All information will be kept strictly confidential.


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