The Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) agrees that there are many reasons why migrant workers run away and lodge injury claims against their employers.
From our experience, we can confirm that the grounds cited by Ms Deborah D. Fordyce ("Reasons for compensation claims"; Wednesday) are valid and we believe that only a radical change in the behaviours of stakeholders can break this vicious circle. Employers must realise that our Work Injury System accords no fault to employers whose workers are injured.
The responsibility to report work injury for claims first lies on the employers' shoulders, and they do not stand to lose much from reporting and claiming for work injury compensation on their workers' behalf.
MWC has seen employers alienate an injury claimant after receiving a legal letter from the worker's lawyer. Employers need to realise the high likelihood that their worker has been influenced by an unscrupulous lawyer who will stop at nothing to solely represent the worker.
Workers fear they may face abuse or illegal repatriation from the employer for making their claims. However, MWC has seen many cases where employers have demonstrated their concern and given the level of care required by law - providing adequate medical care, leave and wages and above all, giving the worker the reassurance that he needs so that he will not consider running away.
Workers must understand that the law has provided for their protection and care, and that lawyers are not their only solution if their employers refuse to lodge claims for them. MWC strongly urges such workers to approach migrant-worker non-governmental organisations which can help to convince their employer to do so, or failing that, help them lodge the claim.
MWC will continue to make representations to the Manpower Ministry and assist in expediting the compensation process. MWC will also continue to provide for the food and shelter needs of the worker to reduce the need to resort to illegal employment.
Some cases we see have also led us to believe that sometimes, workers game the Work Injury System to select employment of their choice as they have technically little to lose in doing so. This behaviour is socially unacceptable and can ultimately lead to tragic circumstances.
MWC cautions workers and employers alike to access the Work Injury System honestly and fairly so that it can provide meaningful compensation to workers who have suffered physical incapacity or impairment from legitimate injuries suffered in the course of their work.
Yeo Guat Kwang
Migrant Workers' Centre
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