Baseless claim about non-payment of foreign worker salaries

Baseless claim about non-payment of foreign worker salaries
File Photo: Ministry of Manpower (MOM) staff providing assistance to foreign workers with salary claims and fee payment issues on 6 May 2009.

Mr Alex Au's letter ("Salary non-payment a big issue for migrant workers"; Monday) paints an inaccurate picture.

Through our outreach efforts, we encourage workers with salary claims to come forward to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Last year, the ministry received about 3,000 salary claims involving foreign workers. This is less than 0.5 per cent of work permit holders here.

Independent research companies, using professionally accepted methodologies, have corroborated our view that migrant workers feel they are generally well treated here. Interim findings of a survey conducted by Nexus Link showed that 90 per cent of foreign workers are satisfied working here.

We are therefore curious as to how Mr Au could make the sweeping statement that around 130,000 foreign workers may be either partially or not paid salaries at all. We trust he realises that it is not appropriate to listen only to the employees' side of the story to bolster his claim of widespread non-payment of salaries.

In adjudicating a salary claim, MOM listens to both sides in the dispute. Should an employer be found to be errant, we will take tough action, such as debarment from employing foreign workers. Where the offence is particularly egregious, they may also be prosecuted.

Other than enforcement, MOM also helps affected workers to recover their salaries. For the majority of substantiated claims that the employer is in a position to pay, MOM has ensured that the foreign workers receive their claims in full.

If the employer is facing financial difficulties and cannot pay, foreign workers may choose to seek adjudication with MOM, or settle the claim through conciliation. Some workers have chosen the latter, because they were aware their employers were just not able to make full payment.

At no point is the worker pressured into accepting a settlement. It is unbecoming of Mr Au to cast aspersions on MOM officers who work tirelessly to help all employees, including foreign workers, resolve their salary claims.

MOM is and remains committed to protecting and upholding all workers' rights and interests. This includes allowing victimised workers to change employers and continue working in Singapore while their cases are being investigated.

We also earlier announced the mandatory issuance of itemised payslips within two years. Employers of work permit holders are already required to pay their workers' salaries through direct transfers into their bank accounts if workers request it.

Then Yee Thoong

Divisional Director

Labour Relations and Workplaces Division

Ministry of Manpower

This article was published on Aug 29 in The Straits Times.

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