200 foreign workers hold protest in Tampines

IT WAS a protest that involved close to 200 foreign workers.

One that lasted 71/2 hours under the blazing sun.

The police were called in; so were the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) officers.

The dispute was over salaries, which the workers claimed had not been paid to them since November last year.

The workers, who were mostly from Bangladesh, were also unhappy over the compulsory deduction of $150 from their monthly salaries for food provided by their company, which they claimed was of poor quality.

The protest took place on Monday at an open field near Tampines Industrial Street 62 from 7am to 2.30pm.

Sitting cross-legged on the grass with their heads bowed away from the sun, the workers from Sunway Concrete Products and Techcom Construction & Trading refused to work, claiming they have not been paid from November last year.

Sunway, a company that manufactures concrete products like pillars, is the main contractor while Techcom is the sub-contractor.

The workers said they are paid less than $1,500 each month.

"I have eight people waiting for me to send money home every month," said Mr Hasan Abdul Jabar, who is in his 30s.

"How to feed my family? Every month, I just have to tell them to wait. But how long can we wait? When we ask the company, they tell us, 'soon, soon,' but it's three months six days since our last pay."

But a spokesman for the two companies involved said that most workers had not complained about the delay in their pay.

"Most of our workers don't have any problems. It's just a few ringleaders stirring trouble," the spokesman added.

When TNP visited the site of the dispute yesterday morning, the police had already blocked off the area on the field where most of the workers had gathered.

MOM officers reached the scene at about 11.45am to speak to the workers and supervisors from the two different companies.

As the wait stretched out well into the afternoon, a few of the workers rushed back and forth from their quarters to the field, clutching 1.5-litre bottles of tap water to pass out among the protesters.

After a few tedious rounds, they switched to an entire pail of water, scooping mouthfuls of water out with small cups.

As for the compulsory deduction of $150 from their monthly salary for food provided by their company, the workers complained that the food was sub-standard.

"It's not nice. But if we don't eat the food, we still have to pay for it," complained Mr Abdul Razzak, who has worked two years at the company.

Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: TNP)

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