50 construction workers have reported their employer, Audi construction which is a subcontractor specialising in building structures, for owing them at least two months of salary to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
The ministry stated in a press release on Tuesday that it is looking into the pay claims and investigating the company for possible offences under the Employment Act.
Audi was working on the Ang Mo Kio Nursing Home project for main contractor Kian Hiap Construction.
The latest report said that 19 of its workers from China had received part of the money owed to them and had flown home as of last night.
In a phone interview with The Straits Times, one of them, Mr Zhao Sheng Wei said that he was owed about $5,000 in wages for September through to last month and that he was at Changi Airport at that moment.
He said, “We had no money to eat, no money even to take the train to the ministry.”
Last month, he received $2,000 after reporting to the Ministry, which told him that it was an insurance payout as the company was not unable to pay him out.
Mr Zhao said that he had no choice but to get back to his hometown in Shanxi province as his wife and four children were waiting for him, although the money paid was not the full amount owed, saying “We can’t wait anymore. Many of us have wives and children to support.”
When asked whether he would apply for another job in Singapore, the man said that he would decide on the matter after the Chinese New Year celebrations. “I’m a bit worried that something like this will happen again, especially now that the economy is not so good,” he said.
A Chinese evening newspaper, Shin Min Daily News, reported that another 21 workers are staying in a shophouse in Balestier. They said that they were owed a total of $80,000 by their boss Xu Xi Bin, who had stopped paying them from September and cancelled their work permits without informing them.
The workers told the newspaper that they were initially each given a subsistence allowance of $200. However, they were later only provided with rice, potatoes and onions to eat.
Their boss then told Shin Min that he had no money to pay the workers. The reason for this is that the main contractor, Kian Hiap, have also not paid him since September.
He said the workers had agreed to finish the project and then claim the salaries they were owed. However, they later refused to work. Therefore, he said that he had no choice but to cancel their work permits.
There was no response from Kian Hiap.
Jolovan Wham who is a migrant worker activist responded to TOC’s question on the matter, said that MOM should forefeit the employer’s $5000 security bond and pay the workers. “There is no reason for them to receive less than $5k if this is the value of the security bond. Especially if the workers are owed $5k and more.” said Wham.