Workers' pay issues resolved

PHOTO: Workers' pay issues resolved

Four Chinese construction workers who stopped work at a Housing Board project site in Yishun on Nov 26 over unpaid wages had their salary arrears paid in full yesterday.

The four men - Mr Chi Wen Wu, 37; Mr Kai Sheng He, 45; Mr Wang Zheng Hua, 38; and Mr Wu Liang Zhong, 41 - were employees of Sime Chong Construction.

They were owed amounts totalling about $14,000.

The men, who are no longer working, had lodged salary claims with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) late last month and have remained in Singapore on Special Passes since.

They received their salaries yesterday following a short meeting held at MOM Services Centre in Bendemeer Road at 4pm with their former employer and MOM's labour-relations officers.

The men were also provided with tickets for a Singapore Airlines flight today to Nanjing, China.

Mr Chi told My Paper: "I was affected by this incident but I will still consider returning to Singapore to work because of how much assistance was given to us."

Their case was cast into the spotlight after about 20 workers from India - who were also employed by Sime Chong Construction at the Yishun Avenue 6 site - stayed away from work on Tuesday.

The 20 were part of a group of 28 who were working at the worksite.

All had not been paid their November salaries by the same employer. 

As of noon yesterday, all 28 workers had been paid their salary arrears, said MOM yesterday.

MOM added that it is investigating Sime Chong Construction for breaches of the Employment Act.

The incident is at least the fourth reported labour dispute here following an illegal strike by SMRT bus drivers from China last month.

Members of Parliament told My Paper that foreign workers should be made more aware of where to turn to for help, and be provided with more avenues to seek redress.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, who is a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Manpower, said different cultural backgrounds may be a reason why foreign workers resort to stopping work.

He said: "There may not be sufficient engagement or induction into work cultures and laws."

The MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC said that foreign workers may come from countries where refusing to work is the norm when disputes cannot be resolved.

He added that MOM could set up satellite offices at major worker dormitories, to make it easier for them to seek redress.

Fellow GPC member Patrick Tay, who is an MP for Nee Soon GRC, said that tripartite partners have their own roles to play in educating workers on their rights and obligations.

Ms Debbie Fordyce, an executive- committee member of non-governmental organisation Transient Workers Count Too, said: "Foreign workers will not undertake illegal actions like strikes lightly."

This is because employers have the right to terminate their services and many workers had already invested large sums of money to secure their jobs here, she added.