Photo Credit: TODAY

Foreign workers organised sit-down protest at CBD, demanding unpaid salaries of nearly S$300,000

On Wednesday (March 6), over 30 foreign workers participated in a sit-down protest at the Central Business District (CBD) demanding answers from their employer over unpaid salaries.

Their employer, Stargood Construction, believed to owe these workers about S$300,000 for their work at the old Central Provident Fund (CPF) building from December 2018 to February 2019.

Those who participated in the protest said that 59 workers who were not paid are mainly from Bangladesh as well as China and India. They started their protest on Monday morning, with workers spending a few hours each day on-site.

The police have confirmed that they’ve received a call at 9.46am and said that “the parties involved were advised accordingly”. It was also that reported that four police vehicles were spotted at the Maxwell Link site during the protest and officers were seen talking to the workers.

According to TODAY, Stargood Construction owner Lin Jie Biao,33, admitted that his company, which was formed in 2011, has indeed owe the workers their salary. This is because the project’s main contractor Shimizu Corporation had not paid him for his company’s work since December 2018.

Claiming that he is broke himself, Mr Lim said that his firm continued with the work despite not being paid as “delayed payments are the norm in the industry”. Stargood was a subcontractor hired to build and reinforce the foundation of the new project.

However, he was “surprised” when Shimizu sent him a payment response document on Monday (4 March) claiming that the construction company had incurred a “back charge” of over S$700,000. These costs included third-party fees such as outsourcing for the assembly of materials, formwork prefabrication and administrative fees.

Mr Lin had rubbished the claim and said that he was overcharged, and it was “unreasonable” that he would be some S$500,000 in debt over the project.

“Every cent I have went into this project,” revealed Mr Lim. He also said that he had taken out personal loans from family and friends to make ends meet and to provide his workers some money.

He also noted that the company’s finances were “healthy” before they took up this project in April last year.

When TODAY contacted Shimizu Corporation to find out about this matter, the company’s representative refused to comment. The firm’s project director Dino Jose Orino, who had liased with Stargood and had signed off on the payment response, also declined to comment.

The project at Robinson Road is owned by Southernwood Property, a subsidiary company of office solutions firm Ascendas Services. The project was to redevelop the old CPF building into a 29-storey office tower and three-story car park, and is expected to be completed by 2020.

It was also reported that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is aware of this issue and investigations are ongoing.

Mr Lin has met MOM to give his statement and the affected workers will be meeting the ministry’s representatives on March 18 to tell their part of the story.

TOC has written to Shimizu for their response on the allegations made against the company.

Upon reading this news, many netizens felt that it was not right for the construction company to hold the workers’ hard-earned money.

They wrote their comments on TODAY’s Facebook page where over 70 comments were received.

However, a group of online users sympathised Stargood and said that they’re being bullied by a big company.

But, a bunch of netizens wondered why no arrests were made as the foreigners staged a protest. They also questioned why a Singaporean who just held a piece of paper was being investigated for forming a demonstration, while these foreigners are spared.

They’re referring to the case where social worker and activist Jolovan Wham was investigated for protesting outside State Courts without a valid permit.

Wham himself posted on his Twitter account stating that this case would likely be investigated without much fanfare and bar the instigator of the protest from entering Singapore again.