MOM logo and back photo of Listi

FDW owed 10 months of salary, sent back home after Ministry of Manpower said she must return


On 18 September this year, Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) published a post about Listi (*not her real name), a domestic workers from Indonesia, who had 10 months, or more than $5,000 withheld by employer. She had no rest days, and her handphone usage was restricted by her employer.

She told HOME that she wakes up at 5.30am and had to work up to 1130pm or midnight.

Listi finally sought help from HOME and the organisation assisted her to file a claim and request a change of employer at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

While she was eventually paid the sum owing to her, her employer cancelled her work permit and purchased a ticket for 19 September. Despite knowing her circumstance, MOM said that Listi had to return back to her country since a ticket has been purchased for her.

TOC wrote to MOM on 20 September asking why the ministry cannot allow the FDW to stay in Singapore and must take the plane back to her country, noting that MOM is well-aware that FDWs have to fork out a hefty sum of money to pay agent fees to come back to Singapore to work as a domestic worker. However, MOM has not replied to our queries (We got the acknowledgement email so it is confirmed that MOM saw the query).

In a press release on 13 September, the MOM said that “employers should not keep the FDW’s salaries on her behalf, and/or make this arrangement as a condition for her employment. Employers should decline any request from their FDWs to help them save their salaries.” They add “Those with valid salary claims will also be allowed to change employers if they so wish.”

According to social worker and migrant rights activist Jolovan Wham, the right to change employers does not always happen. “it is usually only reserved for potential prosecution witnesses. The majority of exploited workers get sent home. This is unfair and makes it difficult for workers to come forward with their claims.”