Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has suspended Nihal Group’s work pass privileges as there were 48 complaints lodged against the company by foreign workers, whose salaries between January and April were retained.
According to the ministry, only nine of these employees have been paid following “successful mediation” under the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management launched last year to date. Seven of them have found new employment and one employee has decided to return home after being paid.
Mr Ethan Guo, general manager of non-government organisation Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), which has been helping with the bulk of the workers’ claims, said that while mediation is assessed to be successful, it is likely that most of the workers will have to settle for smaller sums than what they are owed.
For example, Mr Faruk Oman, one of the foreign workers, has so far only managed to claw back about S$2,000, less than a-tenth of the S$23,000 (including overtime hours) is owed him, according to the terms of his contract.
Mr Faruk is one of 48 foreign workers who have lodged complaints against Nihal Enterprise and Nihal Construction, both held by parent company Nihal Group, between January and April this year for defaulting on their salaries.
The workers TWC2 is helping are owed amounts ranging from S$2,732 to S$24,986.
Mr Guo said that TWC2 has observed a number of companies that hire workers at this $1,600 rate, but have no intention of actually paying their workers this amount, adding that employers often hire higher skilled workers to benefit from lower levies.
TODAY, which has seen the pay slips of several Nihal workers, said that they were paid only a quarter of the promised rate each month.
Mr Guo said, “With the large number of cases pending, however, we are expecting the workers who are only coming to us now to see a reduction in their chances of getting much, if any, of their owed salary back at all.”
Mr Faruk told TODAY that he did not seek help from the authorities earlier, despite being underpaid for close to a year, because the boss kept telling them this is a big company and has resources, and that the employees should take the smaller amounts of money first.
Mr Faruk filed his complaint in January and has been unemployed since.
Mr Faruk is holding out hope that he will receive more compensation after subsequent mediation sessions since he had paid S$7,000 to come to Singapore, borrowed from relatives and banks.
Nihal Construction and Nihal Enterprise, which are both under Nihal Group, are housed at Ubi Techpark along Ubi Crescent. Nihal Construction was incorporated in August 2015 while Nihal Enterprise was incorporated in May the following year, according to records from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.
The records listed Kulvinder Singh Bajaj and Birbal Singh Bajaj as directors of Nihal Group, while Angad Singh Harbans Singh is the director of Nihal Construction and Nihal Enterprise.
TODAY contacted a member of Nihal’s management team, who identified himself only as Mr Singh, claimed his ex-employees had inflated their claims.
The man told the media that he acknowledged that some of them were indeed underpaid for working overtime due to miscalculations by payroll staff who have since been dismissed. However, Mr Singh accused the foreign workers of ganging up to “rip him off”.
“Some of them are the masterminds and the others are asked to follow. How is it possible that we would owe each one of them more than S$20,000? Are they trying to say that they have been working for me for free,” he said.