Construction workers claim they have not been paid for 2 1/2 months

Construction workers claim they have not been paid for 2 1/2 months

Looking tired, hungry and frustrated, they appeared an odd bunch.

It was a work day and instead of being out at construction sites, the group of 29 Bangladeshi workers were just milling about the entrance of their Kranji Loop dormitory.

Since last Monday, the workers, who were supposed to be working at a number of project sites in Sakra Island, which is part of Jurong Island, Tuas and Beach Road had refused to go to work.

Their duties include panel installation, cementing and welding.

They claimed they had not been paid for 2½ months, their pay was being docked illegally and they were running out of money to pay for food.

Their employer claims he had settled the matter with them.

But the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has deemed it serious enough to investigate the workers' claims.

Last Wednesday, The New Paper team noticed the workers loitering near the entrance of their dormitory at 5 Kranji Loop, which was within an industrial estate.

They invited us into their dorm.

Aged between 24 and 47, they said they were working for Kim Hup Chor Construction and were supposed to be working at a few locations around the island.

They told TNP that not only had they not been paid for 2½ months, their meals supplier, who wanted to be known only as Mr Aynal, who is also from Bangladesh, had stopped providing them food that very morning.

The workers said they have been unable to pay him the $120 per person monthly fee for two months. He delivers packed food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Initially, Mr Aynal provided food without payment, but on Wednesday morning, the meals stopped coming.

One of the workers, who gave his name only as Mr Abdul, claimed: "How to pay for makan (Malay for food) when our company owes us more than two months' salary?

"We have all borrowed from relatives working in Singapore. But they, too, have families to support."

Thankfully, the workers found some relief that same day. They said they were each given $300 by their employer for food expenses, so meals resumed the next day.

On Wednesday, the workers had to buy their own food with whatever little money they had.

Mr Aynal later told TNP: "I almost had to stop (helping) them because I couldn't afford it any more."

The workers live in a 15m by 6m room - about the size of a badminton court - meant for 40 people located within the premises of a workshop.

They said their problems started when their employer stopped paying them from March 1.

Last Monday, the workers, who include welders and brick layers, went to MOM to lodge their complaints.

On a document shown to this reporter, they listed non-payment of salary, unauthorised deductions and short payment of overtime work.

The next day, when company director Lim Beng Kiat met the workers at their dormitory, a shouting match apparently erupted.

The commotion was recorded by a worker on his mobile phone.

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