Employers swayed, workers get paid
Construction company said achange of staff led to the delay in wage payments.
By SHREE ANN MATHAVAN AND TAN MAY PING
FOR 200 Chinese foreign workers, their show of solidarity at the Manpower Ministry (MOM) seemed to have swayed their employer.
They complained that they had not been paid for four months.
Late last night, in response to the workers' pay claims, a spokesman for Zhonghe Huaxing Development, a construction company, said it had credited its workers' salaries for September into their bank accounts yesterday afternoon.
He added that the salaries for October would be paid within a week and wages for November would be paid before Chinese New Year.
The spokesman explained that a change of staff had led to the delay in wage payments.
He said in Mandarin: 'We are working with MOM and our workers to change the way salaries are paid. 'Workers will receive their salary every month as per the Employment Act in Singapore.'
However, he cautioned: 'Workers going on strike as they did today is illegal. This is a regular salary dispute.' Workers had also objected to the many 'unfair' deductions in workers' salaries. With regard to this, he said 'some changes' would be made as well. The workers had gathered at the MOM building around 8am yesterday. Their huge numbers, they hoped, would press home their grievances.
Speaking to The New Paper on condition of anonymity, the workers said they were promised monthly salaries of $1,200 to $1,300.
This, they said, was stated in the contracts which they had signed with agents in China before coming to Singapore.
Each of them paid 30,000 yuan ($6,300) to the agents and they worked at various construction sites, including the integrated resort at Marina Bay and a school in Boon Keng.
But things were different once they started work. One worker in his 40s from Jiangsu province said he was not paid for four out of the five months since he arrived in Singapore in August.
Another worker - also from Jiangsu province - who is in his 30s, said he was not paid for the first three months.
He and others were paid their first month's wages in the fourth month.
They were supposed to have been paid their second month's wages in the fifth month. The remaining back pay was to follow the same pattern.
The worker said he had been paid only a total of $1,100 in the six months he had worked.
The figure was so low because of numerous deductions from his salary.
A total of $700 - more than 50 per cent of his pay - was deducted.
These included $150 for water and electricity bills at the various places he was housed, and a deduction of $550, to be returned on completion of the two-year contract.
Another worker in his 30s, who also arrived in August, said: 'All we are asking for is our pay. It's very unreasonable to have all these deductions. The workers said they gathered to make a mass complaint because they felt that the company was ignoring their concerns.
The construction worker in his 40s said: 'We have no choice. We called the company, but could never reach them on the phone. That's why we have come to MOM.'
Agreed his colleague: 'It wasn't one person's idea. After speaking to each other, we realised that we all had the same problem. So we decided to take action since it involves everyone.'
Another worker who declined to give his age said: 'If the company pays me, I will continue to work for them.'
When contacted, MOM said it rendered assistance to some 200 foreign workers from Zhonghe Huaxing Development as well as China Nuclear Industry Huaxing Construction Co.
It is understood that the two companies share the same management.
The spokesman said that after MOM's intervention, the issues were amicably resolved. 'The key issues were salary arrears from September 08, and workers' unhappiness with the employers for wanting to revise certain employment terms,' she said.
'The employers have banked in the September 08 salaries into the workers' accounts today... (and) have also undertaken to pay basic salaries on time going forward.'
She added that the parties have also reached an understanding on other differences.
This article was first published in The New Paper on December 31, 2008.
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