By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the article “600 employers denied workers basic rights: MOM” (Channel NewsAsia, Nov 9).
600 employers caught cheating?
The report states that workers of some 600 employers was denied of their basic employment rights in the past year — such as not being paid for overtime work, or not being given medical leave.
More than half of the workers affected in such ways were in the low-wage bracket.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed the figures on Saturday, after stepping up inspections on employers since September last year. The ministry’s efforts targeted low-wage sectors like cleaning, F&B, and retail.
After 3,000 inspections by the ministry, and interviews conducted with more than 12,000 Singaporeans, they found that not paying for overtime work was top of the list of infringements, followed by not giving the workers annual or medical leave.
This enforcement efforts had said to helped more than 22,000 Singaporeans – nearly half of them in the low-wage bracket.
How come there is no statistics for past years?
The above cited statistics are shocking as it may be just the tip of the iceberg. Does it indicate that flouting by employers against particularly low-wage workers may be rampant in Singapore?
If in just one year, the MOM managed to discover 600 employers, after 3,000 inspections, 12,000 interviews and “helped more than 22,000 Singaporeans” – this begs the question as to what were the statistics in the last few years?
How many errant employers, inspections, interviews and Singaporean workers in 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008?
Why is it that only the statistics for the last year are revealed now?
No non-citizen workers were helped?
Since it only refers to “helped more than 22,000 Singaporeans”, does it mean that none of the 600 employers were flouting the rules to any of their foreign workers and permanent resident (PR) workers? Surely non-Singaporeans were affected too. So, how many non-Singaporeans were helped?
Not a single employer prosecuted?
As to “A ministry spokesperson said no prosecutions have been made so far, but investigations are ongoing” – why is it that not a single employer has been prosecuted, as it is now already about more than a year since the stepped-up inspections began in September last year?
If no employers are prosecuted, then where is the deterrence for employers to comply with the labour laws?
By the way, how many employers were prosecuted in 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008?
Sleeping on the job for years?
Without the above statistics, how do we assess whether the former Manpower Minister and the labour movement were in a sense “sleeping on the job” or not?
What this may indicate is that our tripartite system is a failure when it comes to protecting workers’ rights.
With regard to “But these figures could be the tip of the iceberg.
Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said: “The truth is you’ll never be able to catch everyone.
“If you have a system that is in place that will… guarantee that no one will make a mistake, then it’s also very difficult to enforce, and very hard too for businesses to operate, and that actually affects jobs.
“So it needs to be a system where the measures are in place, it’s reasonable, but when you’re caught, we need to enforce the regulations and the law to the full extent of it.
Words not matched by action?
“I sometimes meet people who come to see me, employers who appeal that ‘oh this is the first time we are doing this, can you be more lenient?’ Well my response is, this is the first time you get caught, not the first time you’re doing it” – I am rather puzzled as to how “ but when you’re caught, we need to enforce the regulations and the law to the full extent of it” can gel with “no prosecutions have been made so far, but investigations are ongoing”?
Why did it take so long?
In respect of “These dubious employment practices were uncovered after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) stepped up its enforcement efforts with the formation of a team of 20 WorkRight inspectors” (“WorkRight has helped 22,000 Singaporean workers“, Straits Times, Nov 9) – does it mean that prior to September last year, there were no Workright inspectors?
Why did it take so long (decades) to form a team of Workright inspectors? Don’t you think the past Manpower Ministers may have a lot to answer for in this regard?
What about discriminatory employment practices?
Also, why are we only stepping up enforcement on employers flouting basic employment rights? Why not look into discriminatory employment practices as well?
How many workers all these years?
So in the final analysis, how many workers in total have been short-changed by our tripartite system over the years?
Such is the sad and pathetic state of our labour environment all these years! Sigh!