Workers cry foul over unpaid salaries

Workers cry foul over unpaid salaries
IN TROUBLE: Banners of the Juventus Soccer School at their headquarters at Tanglin Secondary School at West Coast Road.

Earlier today, Juventus faced Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final, chasing their first appearance in the final of Europe's premier club football competition since 2003.

The Italian giants' football school arm in Singapore, the Juventus Football School (JSS), was caught up in an entirely different chase, with former employees and one-time landlord seeking redress for alleged non-payment of monies.

One former employee, Mr Fadzli Sahat, reported the issue to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which issued an order for Kickster, the company that runs JSS in Singapore, to pay a sum of $9,000 in owed wages by May 12.

It is four months' wages for Mr Fadzli, and at press time last night, no payment was made, he told The New Paper.

There are at least three other employees who are allegedly owed salaries, and they pointed to March 4 as the date when problems came to a head.

They reported for work at JSS's office at Suntec Tower 3 that day, only to find that they were locked out by their landlord, Servcorp Singapore, a serviced and virtual office provider.

Servcorp declined to reveal the amount owed to it.

The four employees claim that they are owed thousands in wages and expenses, as well as an unknown amount in Central Provident Fund (CPF) payments.

Two of them, including Mr Fadzli, who did coaching and administrative work at JSS, have complained to MOM.

Another employee has reported the matter to the CPF board.

Juventus are looking into the matter, saying in an e-mail response to queries sent by parties affected by JSS that "we are working in order to press the partner ... to solve (the) different problems, because this is not our way to work".

"We do not just give the brand, but we work closely with the partner and coach."

Mr Jiri Cerny, the managing director of Kickster, and the man behind JSS here, acknowledged that the Juventus headquarters has been in touch with him.

"Juventus has got in touch with me, yes, but this is not something I'd like to share with you," Mr Cerny told TNP last night.

When pressed about the MOM order that he had failed to keep to, as well as the rent owed to Servcorp, the Czech national brushed it all off.

"Nothing has happened (with regard to the MOM order), all this is something internal, it will be cleared very soon, you don't have to worry about it," he said.

Servcorp told TNP it had given JSS 30 days' grace to pay the rent before locking up the premises on March 4, and even after taking such drastic action, tit showed the errant tenant some goodwill.

It returned to JSS a laptop that was locked within the premises, but as of yesterday, Servcorp said it had yet to receive payment.

Servcorp revealed that it was leaving the matter in the hands of its lawyers.

Mr Richard Harcus, a former coach at JSS, claimed he has attempted to recoup the expenses owed to him by making calls and sending text messages to Mr Cerny.

The Scotsman, who is studying for his UEFA B licence, left in March after Mr Cerny allegedly failed to pay expenses that were due to him.

"I've not been paid, no. Jiri promised several times that he would pay me, but he's not replying to my messages now," said Mr Harcus, who has found employment in Vietnam.

"I took the job because I trusted Juventus, and when you get a contract with the Juventus logo on it and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) logo on the website, you trust it.

"I had no reason to disbelieve him, but he promised me accommodation and that didn't happen. I had to stay in a spare room in a friend's house - it's ridiculous that I had to depend on the charity of a friend."

In an earlier interview with TNP after a hearing at MOM on April 28, Mr Cerny said JSS did face issues early on, but was finding its feet.

'MISTAKES'

He admitted that "mistakes were made", taking issue with what he felt was a lack of professionalism shown by local coaches.

He also revealed that he faced problems with the high price charged by owners of private football facilities.

JSS uses the premises at Tanglin Secondary School at West Coast Road, with sessions continuing despite the off-the-field issues. (The school allows JSS to use the school field on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 5pm to 7pm for football training.)

Despite the problems, Mr Cerny was confident of JSS' ability to bounce back.

"JSS will grow, we are organising camps, preparing for next year, increasing training sessions, working with schools here and we still want to support the local community," he said.

"We are working with the Singapore Sports Council (now known as Sport Singapore), we are renting fields from them; and we are in touch with FAS, kids from their Centres of Excellence will go to JSS camps."

But a parent of a JSS trainee who spoke to TNP on condition of anonymity, revealed that he is losing confidence in JSS.

"This is not good for Juventus, in fact it's a disgrace to the name. We've paid in advance for six months ($1,200) and I seriously doubt I will extend my son's participation," he said.


This article was first published on May 14, 2015.
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