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More errant employers should be prosecuted for not paying salaries

I refer to the report “95% of salary-related claims resolved last year” (Feb 7).

Jolovan Wham, Acting Executive Director, Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME)

I refer to the report “95% of salary-related claims resolved last year” (Feb 7).

Though the Ministry of Manpower resolved more than nine in 10 salary claims, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) has received feedback from workers that they usually got a fraction of what they were entitled to under the Employment Act when their disputes were mediated.

Most workers are unwilling to pursue the full extent of their claims because this would mean having the Labour Court hear their disputes, which could take several months or even up to a year to resolve. The longest case Home saw took two years.

As workers are not allowed to work to fend for themselves and support their families while waiting, they accept much lower amounts so their cases can be resolved quickly.

Most workers who approach Home have a salary complaint.

In our report Wage Theft and Exploitation among Migrant Workers in Singapore, we interviewed and surveyed 2,009 workers who told us that they were not paid, were paid less than what was contractually agreed or had wages deducted and withheld.

Employers routinely ignored overtime, public holiday and rest day pay entitlements.

The ministry received 9,000 complaints last year against 4,500 employers who failed to pay their workers, and there were 158 convictions over three years — an average of only 53 convictions a year.

We urge the ministry to increase the number of prosecutions to strengthen deterrence.

With regard to ensuring that all workers have work-injury insurance coverage, the Manpower Minister explained that it was not possible to comb through every insurance policy and cross-check with the movement of a company’s staff.

As the ministry already has a system, however, to ensure that employers buy a security bond before employment is guaranteed, extending this to hospitalisation and work-injury coverage should not be difficult.

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