Errant bosses: 22,000 employees get help

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has over the past year helped more than 22,000 Singaporeans who were denied basic employment rights by errant employers.

These include bosses who failed to pay salaries on time, make Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions or offer overtime allowances, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday.

The dubious employment practices were uncovered after MOM stepped up enforcement efforts by forming a team of inspectors who have conducted more than 3,000 site inspections and interviewed 12,000 workers since last November.

The inspectors, including officers from the ministry and the CPF Board, investigate complaints received through the WorkRight hotline.

About half the 20-strong team are former Ministry of Home Affairs officers or former police officers.

WorkRight, a campaign to ensure all workers enjoy basic employment rights, was set up in September last year. Besides enforcement, it also aims to educate workers, particularly vulnerable groups such as lower-wage earners in the food and beverage, security and cleaning sectors, on their rights.

About 13,000, or more than half the 22,000 people who received help through WorkRight, were low-income workers.

"These are our fellow Singaporeans who were previously denied basic employment rights such as timely payment of salary, CPF contributions or overtime allowance," said Mr Tan. "But thanks to WorkRight, their employers are now doing it right - MOM has taken action against them and they have rectified their employment practices."

An MOM spokesman told The Sunday Times that the majority of employers inspected were compliant or would amend their practices where minor infringements were discovered.

None has been prosecuted so far, following the inspections.

Mr Tan, who was speaking at the first WorkRight roadshow and job fair yesterday, warned that employers caught flouting employment laws will be "dealt with to the full extent of it".

The minister's words were welcomed by job seekers attending the roadshow like Madam Lim Mei Lee, who is unemployed.

The 57-year-old mother of two recalled being a retail assistant two years ago, and working on holidays with no extra pay or replacement days off.

"My old boss said it was company policy to not offer extra pay or day off, and said if we didn't work on public holidays, he would dock our pay," she said in Mandarin. "Now I know I was lied to, and won't be so easily short-changed in the future."

The roadshow, which also offered job vacancies from employers in various industries, will go to Bishan, Bukit Batok and Woodlands in the coming weekends.

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